Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 27, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why CAMH / Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017):
- As part of the organization's inclusive recruitment practices, CAMH provides bias-free interview training for recruiters and managers and ensures that prospective candidates receive the appropriate accommodation if needed -- additionally, CAMH includes diversity-specific questions as part of the interview process and incorporates mandatory diversity training into its orientation and onboarding processes
- CAMH manages "Employment Works!", a unique program to help individuals with mental health or addiction access meaningful employment through skills development such as resume writing, cover letters, referrals and other educational resources -- Accenture recently joined "Employment Works" as a partner and provides access to Accenture-facilitated employment workshops, resume building exercises and videotaped mock interviews
- CAMH supports the "Out of This World Cafe" at three of its locations -- originally a vocational rehabilitation program managed by CAMH, the cafes are now operated by Working for Change and provide employment opportunities for the psychiatric consumer/survivor community
CAMH has a diverse range of diversity programs
At Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), programs falling under the diversity umbrella are best described, suitably enough, as diverse. The many and varied initiatives range from increasing the number of Indigenous people on staff to outreach to major corporations to help end the stigma of mental illness.
CAMH is committed to health equity for patients who have sometimes been marginalized by society and have lower health outcomes as a result. For example, CAMH has dedicated teams focused on providing services and supports to First Nations, Inuit and Metis clients. It recruits for Indigenous positions from both urban and rural locations.
For three years now, the hospital has also had its own director of Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach. Last summer, CAMH became the first hospital in Ontario to operate a Sweat Lodge on its Toronto premises.
"Having a Sweat Lodge at CAMH will enable us to provide enhanced Indigenous healing ceremonies as part of clients' treatment plans," says Renee Linklater, Director of Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach at CAMH. "This is an exciting example of how hospital-based health services can incorporate Indigenous healing processes and create more opportunities for clients to achieve balance and wellness in their lives."
At the other end of the spectrum, CAMH is also involved in assisting the newest Canadians. Last year it partnered with Women's College Hospital's Crossroads Clinic to launch a refugee mental health and wellness service called the New Beginnings Clinic.
Kim Bellissimo, Vice President, Human Resources and Organizational Development, explains that the clinic, whose patients include Syrian refugees, is part of CAMH's "commitment to supporting health equity and new immigrants who have experienced very difficult and challenging times."
Another key part of mental health treatment involves helping patients acquire the skills and experience they need to join or rejoin the workforce. To increase understanding of mental health issues among employers, CAMH runs some 100 corporate volunteer events a year with local companies and organizations including financial institutions, police departments, government agencies and Bell Canada.
A typical event includes 10 to 15 visitors and CAMH patients participating in anything from a baking get-together to a sports challenge. "People love it. For patients, it's therapeutic, a fun event where they meet and interact with different people," says John Vespa, Director of HR & Volunteer Resources. "For the company, it's an opportunity for their staff to understand mental health and addictions and remove the stigma."
Going forward, the focus is on asking companies to outline how they're going to advance understanding of mental health and addiction at work. "We want them to suggest how they will take it back to their workplaces," says Vespa.
CAMH also recently partnered with Ryerson University to turn its Suits Me Fine clothing store into more of a business operation. Suits Me Fine had already been around for years helping CAMH patients who need everything from special outfits for a job interview or wedding to everyday socks and underwear.
Working with students at Ryerson's Ted Rogers School of Management, CAMH selected an inventory system for its clothing donations. As items arrive, they are entered into the computer system, tagged, and priced. While the clothing is free, it is assigned a notional value and patients are similarly given a theoretical credit limit to spend to help them when they return to the community, explains Vespa.
Students in retail management at Ryerson helped create training modules for volunteers in the shop, some of whom are past patients. By working at Suits Me Fine, they acquire retail experience to build their resumes.
As CAMH tries to get outside companies to hire former patients, "we've had to demonstrate we were prepared to do the same thing," says Bill Manley, Director, Human Resources - Corporate. During its recent redevelopment, CAMH entered into agreements with contractors to hire former patients. "It's a quid pro quo type of arrangement," he says, and everyone benefits.