Passport to Health: Taking Mental Health Out of the Shadows

Passport to Health: Taking Mental Health Out of the Shadows

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Taking mental health out of the shadows at @Goldcorp_Inc's Red Lake Gold Mines

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Monday, June 1, 2015 - 7:30pm

CAMPAIGN: Safe Enough for Our Families


At Goldcorp’s Red Lake Gold Mines, a healthy conversation is underway, and it’s about something you wouldn’t expect a group of miners to be discussing – their feelings.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and workers at Red Lake have been given conversation starter cards, mood buttons, email tips, offered stress reduction yoga classes and other resources as part of the corporate-wide Not Myself Today campaign to kick-start workplace conversations about mental health and engage employees in creating a healthier, more inclusive workplace. There’s even a mood wall on site for people to write down their feelings.

“We recognize that everyone struggles at some point with mental health issues but may not feel comfortable talking to their colleagues or employer about the problems they’re facing,” says Heather Gauthier, Occupational Health Nurse, at Red Lake. “We’re hopeful that this program will get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health by opening a dialogue to increase awareness and understanding of mental health issues.”

But this health-related conversation doesn’t end in May.  Mental well-being is just one of the health topics actively promoted throughout the entire year at Red Lake.

Heather and her team have developed an innovative 12-month health promotion program called Passport to Health with monthly themes covering everything from cancer detection and hearing loss to smoking cessation, weight loss, and diabetes screening, all designed to reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

The idea for Passport to Health came to Heather shortly after she was asked to organize an on-site health fair in 2013. “After careful consideration, I concluded that a one or two day health fair wouldn’t really reach the entire workforce,” she said. “It made much more sense to involve and engage workers in their own health management throughout the year, which resulted in Passport to Health.”

Employees who participate in the Passport to Health program are issued a “passport’ which contains a 12-month calendar with each month corresponding with a different health topics. February, for example, is heart health month. November focuses on cold and flu prevention and March is all about diabetes prevention and management.  Each month, employees drop by the nursing station for a monthly health check, which involves getting their blood pressure checked during heart health month or blood sugar tests for diabetes in March. Health seminars are available, practical information is provided and quizzes and crosswords are used to actively engage workers in health topics.  As an added incentive, every participant who completes their monthly health check gets their passport stamped and is eligible to win monthly prizes such as gift certificates and as well as grand  prizes at the end of the year for those workers with all 12 passport stamps.

The program has been a resounding success.  In its first year, more than 600 employees participated in the Passport to Health program.  More importantly, the Red Lake health care team has been able to identify a number of potential health concerns such as elevated blood sugar levels, abnormal blood pressure and vision problems that required follow up by a physician, enabling employees to make critical lifestyle changes.

“Our employees really love the passport program,” says Heather. “Not only were we able to screen for medical issues but this program also helps employees become more health conscious and aware of what behaviors affect their overall health.”

Building on the momentum of the Red Lake initiative, a second Passport to Health program was started at Porcupine Gold Mines in Timmins, Ontario in January 2015.

“It’s really caught on here,” says Sheila Saarela, Senior Occupational Health Nurse at Porcupine, which has 200 workers enrolled in the program. “In some groups, the employees challenge each other to improve their health. There’s a lot of camaraderie surrounding the program.”

“Senior management has really been behind this program,” she adds. “That kind of support really helps reinforce the importance of this initiative to the individual employees and the company.”

In addition to building bridges with Goldcorp employees, word of the program’s success has reached other industries. A recent presentation on the health promotion initiative to a construction conference by Dave Yateman, Manager of Safety & Training, sparked several inquiries from local contractors on how they could implement Passport to Health in their industry, which clearly demonstrates that a good idea really knows no boundaries.

We want to know - what workplace initiatives do you take part in that promotes a healthy lifestyle?