Health and safety

Mental Health First Aid: Are You Prepared?

September 27, 2018

An employee asks to speak with you. They are sweating, having trouble breathing, and teary-eyed. They disclose they're having an anxiety attack, and they feel as though their heart will jump out of their chest. What would you do?

Not all leaders or employees can confidently say how they would respond in this situation. However, with the increased visibility of mental illness in the workplace and chronic mental stress changing the adjudication of workers' compensation board claims, employers need to be proactive and prepared to respond immediately if an employee has a mental health crisis in the workplace.

In our scenario above, the employee shows some symptoms associated with an anxiety attack. Our best practice guide outlines some of the steps you can take when faced with a similar situation. Keep in mind mental illness is a very broad term, encompassing many diagnoses with varying severities. If you are aware of an employee with a specific mental illness which they have chosen to disclose, ask the employee how you can help them in case an incident arises. However, while best practice would be to have identified and implemented supports before any incident, this isn't always possible.

Please note: this guide cannot and should not replace the advice of a mental health professional.

Although our guide is necessarily narrow in its focus, it bears remembering how broad and prevalent mental health issues are in Canada. Knowing what to do when a situation occurs can make all the difference. Download our FREE Mental Health First Aid Guide, which will provide you with tips to consider when you believe a co-worker is struggling or in crisis.

Download Now


Humber, Todd. First aid goes beyond cuts, bruises to embrace mental health.Canadian HR Reporter. May 28, 2018.

Canadian Association of Mental Health. Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics.

Ipsos. 3rd Annual Canadian Mental Health Check-Up. April 2017.

The Nature of Things. PTSD: Canada Has the Highest Rate, Plus Eight More Surprising Facts. January 19, 2017. Workforce Dev. Millennials are now the biggest generation in the Canadian workforce.

While HRdownloads uses reasonable efforts to maintain this site/blog and its Services in an up-to-date fashion, it does not warrant the completeness, timeliness or accuracy of any information contained on this site/blog or any of its Services, whether in English or French, and may make changes thereto at any time in its sole discretion without notice. All information and Services provided by HRdownloads are provided to members and/or users “as is”, “with all faults,” “as available” and at the sole risk of members and/or users. Our human resources information and recommendations are based on seasoned, best practice field experience and should not be construed as legal advice.