Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why CAMH / Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- 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 has also partnered with the "Employment Works" program, offering 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
At CAMH, diversity is embraced and celebrated
When the subject is diversity at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, it's impossible not to talk in terms of both staff and patients. Because when you're the largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital in the country and you're located in the heart of one of the most multicultural cities, embracing, understanding and celebrating diversity is a must.
"We have a very diverse patient population," says Kim Bellissimo, Vice-President, Human Resources and Organizational Development. "It's important for us to be able to provide excellent care, and that means we need to understand our patient population better than just the illnesses they present."
Bridget Akioyamen is the Clinical Manager of one of CAMH's Outpatient Clinics that helps patients through their recovery period with medication management, counselling and more. "Here, in my own little world, at my clinic, you can see diversity in the staffing mix," says Akioyamen, herself a racialized woman. "It's a miniature of CAMH."
Clinic staff are well balanced between male and female, with people of Asian, South Asian and Caribbean descent, among others, serving the diverse clientele. "It's very helpful to have all these diverse ideas to connect us with our clients in a more fundamental way," Akioyamen adds. "The different perspectives are wonderful."
As an organization, CAMH is focused on the wellness of its employees. "We have a tremendous amount of work under way to support the wellness of our staff, some of whom deal with a broad range of patients with complex needs," says Bellissimo.
For Karen Fournier, a social worker in CAMH's New Beginnings Clinic, working with the influx of Syrian refugees who have come to Canada after enduring unspeakable conditions means working with stressors. "They are fleeing war and persecution, and many have been jailed or kidnapped or tortured or have experienced other hardships," says Fournier. "They're a population at risk for having mental health needs." Since it opened in early 2016, the clinic has been open one day a week to provide direct support, assessment, consultation and referrals for refugee claimants and government-assisted refugees who have been in Canada for two years or less. Some may come to the clinic only once; others need additional support -- advice around medication or treatment, family doctors, counselling or connection to community resources, among other things.
"We'll stay involved until they don't need us anymore," Fournier adds. "Surprisingly, though, once the majority of refugees reach safety and get established, their mental health improves. It speaks to the resilience of this population." Because many refugees do not speak English well or at all when they arrive, an Arabic-speaking administrative assistant in the clinic is instrumental in reaching out and connecting with the newcomers.
Around the rest of CAMH, there is an onsite Sweat Lodge and many specialized programs that are run by and cater to diverse groups. Different faiths are celebrated in regular ceremonies for staff and patients in a Sacred Space, which is also available for individual meditation and prayer. CAMH has also recently opened a wellness centre, which offers a variety of activities to appeal to the diverse staff, such as hands-on art programs, nutrition workshops and music sessions, as well as a fitness centre.
But at CAMH, diversity is much more than just a necessity: it's something to be celebrated. In fact, there are many celebrations throughout the year -- some spiritual, others geared to activities in the city, such as Black History Month or Pride Week, but all of which involve the organization's senior leaders. "We always find that opportunity to celebrate something," says Akioyamen. "It's part of our wellness."