Working Mind — an effective strategy for fighting stigma

Working Mind — a workplace anti-stigma program in Canada with a targeted contact-based approach — decreases stigma associated with mental illness, increases resiliency, improves overall mental wellness and mental health literacy, and provides a return on investment. The program is part of the Opening Minds anti-stigma initiative and was described at WCP 2021 by the director of Opening Minds, Dr Micheal Pietrus.

Many people with a mental illness will not seek help because of the associated stigma,1 said Dr Pietrus. Opening Minds was therefore launched in Canada in 2009 to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.1


Opening Minds has a unique approach

Stigma prevents many people with mental illness from seeking help

Opening Minds was created at a grassroots level with a bottom-up, evidence-based and targeted approach, explained Dr Pietrus.

A request for interest across the country produced an overwhelming response and many programs, which were evaluated by a panel of national and international experts. The panel recommended contact-based education or social contact, rather than a social-marketing approach.

The active ingredients in successful programs were identified, and used to create tool kits and training materials for interventions, which were tested on four key target groups — youth, healthcare providers, workforce, and the media.


The Working Mind workplace program

Working Mind provides coping strategies for any movement to poorer mental health and shows that recovery is possible

Working Mind and its companion program Working Mind First Responder are the most successful Opening Minds programs to date, said Dr Pietrus.

Working Mind was adapted from a Department of National Defense program to build resilience in troops going into combat, with added content for stigma to change perceptions of mental health and mental illness.

Dr Pietrus explained that Working Mind uses a mental health continuum model that moves in either direction along a gradient from good mental health to poor mental health, rather than the traditional black and white view of mental health and mental illness.

Working Mind decreases stigma, increases resilience, and improves mental wellness

It provides coping strategies for any movement to poorer mental health and shows that recovery is possible using well-established strategies, such as goal setting, visualization, positive self-talk and diaphragmatic breathing.

The program also provides booster training and clarification as needed.


Working Mind is cost-effective

Over 200,000 people across Canada have now taken part in the Working Mind program; and a cluster randomized trial has shown that the Working Mind program decreases stigma, increases resiliency, and improves overall mental wellness and mental health literacy, said Dr Pietrus.2

Working Mind provides a return on investment

Furthermore, a study has calculated the return on investment is significant, up to 2 Canadian dollars for every 1 Canadian dollar invested.3

Dr Pietrus concluded by highlighting that Working Mind is now being rolled out in the United States and Australia; and countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Central and South America, have also expressed interest in the program.

Our correspondent’s highlights from the symposium are meant as a fair representation of the scientific content presented. The views and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect those of Lundbeck.

  1. Mental Health Commission of Canada. Opening Minds. Available at: Accessed 22 December 21.
  2. Dobson KS, et al. Effects of the Anti-stigma Workplace Intervention “Working Mind” in a Canadian Health-Care Setting: A Cluster-Randomized Trial of Immediate Versus Delayed Implementation. Can J Psych 2021;66:495–502.
  3. Deloitte Insights. The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business. 2019, pp. 10–17.
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