There is no health without mental health. 

That's the message officials with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit are hoping to promote through the Get Real Photovoice campaign and mobile photo exhibit.

The campaign, which launched in June 2017, hopes to spark conversations about mental health at work while promoting various ways employers can adopt to foster a mentally safe and healthy workplace.

A national survey that was completed a few years ago showed that approximately 70 per cent of employees in Canada are concerned about their psychological health and safety of their workplace, said Lynda Fraser, the health unit's health promotions planner. 

Get real photovoice questions

At the beginning of the campaign, people were given two questions to answer and reflect in their photo submissions. (Christina Jung / CBC)

That means "people are coming to work and they are either suffering under severe workload issues ... stressed for some reason whether its the culture in the workplace, [or] bullying," Fraser explained.

Unfortunately, Fraser said many employees are "afraid to say something and [they] suffer in silence," in fear of reprisal.

But "in that silence there is no help and there is no change for the better," she continued.

That's why the health unit in Thunder Bay, Ont., in partnership with the Superior Mental Wellness at Work advisory group, started the Get Real Photovoice campaign.

"Our campaign is a photo-voice campaign that works the best when you offer questions out," Fraser said. "So we had two questions: the first question was, how do you really feel at work? The second question was, how do you look after your mental health at work?"

get real photovoice submission

This nature-inspired photo is a sample submission received for the Get Real Photovoice campaign and it reflects the answer to one of the questions asked at the beginning: how do you really feel at work? (Lynda Fraser / Thunder Bay District Health Unit)

From there, people submitted photographs along with a caption or a short story that explained how that photo represented their experience at work.

"We did see submissions that talked about people who were either harassed by their boss ... but there were also stories that talked about how important it was for their co-workers to understand," Fraser continued.

Through the campaign, Fraser said she not only discovered how important a support system can be, but also how helpful nature can be "to clear their mind." 

She said it's important for many employers to be prepared and have the ability to identify common stress factors.

She recommended employers implement factors listed on the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace in order to foster a mentally safe and healthy workplace.

"Those factors include making sure there is clear leadership, that workloads are manageable [and] that there is praise and recognition when an employee does a good job ... and making sure there is a positive and respectful workplace," Fraser said.

As part of the campaign, businesses and organizations in Thunder Bay can request to have some of the submitted photos displayed at their workplace.