GUEST HOST: David Menzies
According to a new study, many young Canadian professionals are at a mental health “breaking point”… but the question arises: why is that? What are the true root causes?
By way of background, a few days ago I came across a CTV report regarding mental health in the workplace.
I wasn’t all that surprised CTV was reporting on this, given that CTV’s corporate parent is Bell Media. Every February Bell launches a virtue-signalling initiative called “Let’s Talk”, described as: “an effort to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental illness in Canada.”
Just as CIBC has hitched its social justice marketing wagon to fighting breast cancer, Bell is very bullish on mental health. Except that I just don’t buy what Bell is selling.
I mean, is this telecom titan truly concerned about mental health issues? If so, why did Bell mentally torture its employees during the COVID years by forcing them to get vaxxed — even those employees working remotely from home who never came into contact with clients?
Gee, maybe Ma Bell believes COVID-19 is transmissible over the telephone?
But seriously, Bell caused so many employees to experience all kinds of mental anguish. Get the jab or lose your job. There’d be no “let’s talk” regarding this draconian demand.
Anyway, CTV, a.k.a. Bell’s television puppet, goes on to chronicle the following:
“A recent report published by the Boston Consulting Group found that five million young professionals in Canada are in need of mental health support, advising businesses and organizations to invest more into employee wellbeing.
“’There's still a lot of stigma in discussing mental health. Young people especially, are feeling discouraged from presenting the issues that they're facing right now,” Genevieve Bonin, co-author of the report and managing director and partner at BCG told CTVNews.ca. ‘Organizations do care greatly about the health and well being of their employees, and I think this is now a very open topic for many organizations. But organizations are very slow to recognize the extent of the crisis, so they don't necessarily have an overarching strategy.’
“The study found 25 per cent of all Canadians reported having symptoms of a mental health disorder in 2021, while 50 per cent said they need mental health support, and 35 per cent report being burnt out.
“As for the future of the workforce and the livelihood of 18 to 24 year olds, 40 per cent of the demographic is reportedly at a ‘breaking point’ for their mental health.”
Don’t get me wrong. Mental illness, be it in the workplace or in general, is a very serious issue. I’d wager just about every person viewing this monologue knows of someone either in their professional or personal circles that is experiencing mental illness. And even to this day, there is a stigma surrounding mental illness that is absent if someone were to suffer from, say, heart disease or cancer.
And yet, the idea that 40% — 40%! — of 18 to 24-year-old people are at their so-called “breaking point” vis-à-vis mental health? Is this really the case?
Here’s the crux of the mater: I’m not sure all of that 40% of young people are truly suffering from mental illness. Let me cut to the chase: good it be that a sizeable percentage of that percent are in crisis due to what I call “hardwork derangement syndrome”?
I mean that 40% number is truly staggering. And based on anecdotal evidence and from speaking to human resources personnel, younger folk these days seem more prone to complain or even quit or simply not show up to the office simply when faced with the rigors of hard work or burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline.
Now, I can just hear the outrage from the rank and file members of Gen Z, and, of course, the magnificent millennials. I get the feeling right now they are comparing Yours Truly to the Grumpy Old Man character, brilliantly rendered by Dana Carvey… back when Saturday Night Live was actually, you know — funny.
Now by way of clarification, I am by no means painting everyone comprising those younger generations with the same brush. There are young people that are super-hard workers and there are indeed superb young entrepreneurs with healthy bank accounts.
But the numbers when it comes to mental health issues in the workplace just don’t add up. The Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health notes that in general, one in five Canadians experience a mental illness. In other words, 20%.
However. CAMH does note that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group. Indeed, 39% of Ontario high-school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress (i.e., symptoms of anxiety and depression). A further 17% indicate a serious level of psychological distress.
Now again, defaulting to Grumpy Old Man mode, back when I was in high school in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I don’t recall experiencing psychological distress, nor did I observe this with the rest of the student body. And believe me, folks, I was never part of the cool kids’ club.
So, what’s going on here? I mean, when I went to high school, there seemed to be more pressure to succeed than what exists today. You could actually fail a subject. You could actually be mandated to go to summer school. Now, talk about psychological distress.
These days, of course, nobody fails. Even if little Johnnie of Janey can’t spell “cat” if you spotted them the C and the T, they pass.
And I do not exaggerate when it comes to the laissez-faire, anything goes attitude that exists in schools these days. Case in point: do you remember the outrageous case of Edmonton school teacher Lynden Dorval a decade ago?
In 2012, Mr. Dorval was actually fired by the Edmonton school district. And what crime did this teacher commit? Was he inappropriate on social media or did he do something offside with any of his students? Oh no. The precise opposite was true, for this veteran teacher was simply doing his job.
Here’s the skinny: some students in Dorval’s high school class simply declined to hand-in their homework; others didn’t show up to take tests. So, Dorval did exactly what you’d expect any educator to do — he gave those students a zero mark.
Oh, but not so fast. The school board deemed that Dorval was acting in an inappropriate fashion. The Edmonton school district evidently has — or had — a no zero grade policy… even if there’s nothing to grade!
And when Dorval refused to bend the knee, he was first suspended — and then four months later, he was terminated outright from his position at Ross Sheppard High School. Yeah, evidently the school board thought it was cruel and unusual punishment for students not to be rewarded for… work that wasn’t being done? In their eyes, Dorval was a barbarian that had to be banished! Unbelievable...
Then again, perhaps the Edmonton school district was simply ahead of the curve when it comes to wokeness?
While determining a mark for say, written English essays is wholly subjective, these days, there are teachers in the math and sciences department that have gone woke. In other words, 2 plus 2 equals 4 is a very good answer. But it’s not the ONLY answer. Maybe the sum of 2 plus 2 is 5? Hey, that’s OK. Or how about 13? Hey, 100 is a nice round number, isn’t it. Yeah, maybe 2 plus 2 = 100… Because to be rigid in mathematical equations, well, that’s an example of colonialism or imperialism or white supremacy… or something.
From the classroom to the sporting fields, nobody in amateur sports loses anymore. In fact, there are some soccer leagues for kids in which scores aren’t even being kept. And if a team goes 0-for-25 during the course of the regular season, no worries: at the end of the season, EVERY player shall be rewarded with a “participation” trophy.
These academic and sporting policies are truly “systemic problems.” Today, there is an overriding policy of no harm/no foul. Don’t hand in an assignment? No worries, you’ll get a passing grade. Can’t even get a shot on net? That’s ok — you’re an MVP kid.
So, could it be that we have raised a generation or three in which work, especially hard work, causes an adverse reaction? Is this really what is being interpreted as a mental health breakdowns?
Look, when young people enter the real world, especially in the private sector, an employer justifiably expects performance. If you don’t perform, if you miss deadlines, if you sleep-in, if you don’t get the work done, you don’t get a passing grade or trophy — you get reprimanded or perhaps even fired. For a young person who has been mollycoddled all their lives be it via the school system or helicopter parents, the demands of the workplace must come across as something of a toxic shock to their systems.
Indeed, there was a very prolific and public firing — and I would say justified firing — a couple of weeks ago in the world of pro sports. I speak of the now ex-general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas. (Dubas was born in 1985, making him a millennial, by the way. I know, I know… I’m guilty of millennial-bashing here, but too many of them just make it so darn easy truth be told…)
Now, coaches and GMs in pro sports get fired all the time. But when Leafs’ president Brandan Shanahan terminated Dubas, this was a one-of-a-kind tale in the history of pro sports.
As the story goes, on Sunday May 14, Shanahan and Dubas had hammered out a framework for a deal that would provide a contract extension to the Leafs GM. I’m not sure why — under Dubas the Leafs only won a single playoff round.
Anyway, according to the aptly named Yahoo Sports, during the team’s end-of-year media availability the next day, Dubas told reporters that he would either return as Maple Leafs GM… OR… he would take the year off to reflect, citing the toll the season took on his family.
Off? Geez, that reminds me of one of my favourite automotive ads of all time, namely, the spot for the Cadillac ELR:
You know, GM would not run that ad today, not during the Biden administration. What you just watched was way too much American exceptionalism, which has now been reimagined as white privilege.
But anyway, taking a year off? Well, why not Kyle. It’s been 56 years since the Leafs hoisted Lord Stanley’s shaving mug. I guess another year or so won’t make a difference…
And what was the deal in Dubas referencing his family? How did managing the Leafs affect Mrs. Dubas and their two young kids
And really, you’d think Dubas was flying bomber missions over enemy territory in time of war. But Dubas had a dream job, wouldn’t you say? He was in the cushy front office being paid some $4 million a year — not to score goals or save goals, but rather, to sit on his ricotta cheese candy-ass and work the phones. Where’s the stress for the Dubas family in that?
So it was that as team president Shanahan mulled over the statements made by Dubas during that disastrous Monday morning press conference. And Shanahan justifiably came to the conclusion that Dubas was not exactly, you know, “all-in” in terms of being the Leafs GM moving forward. So, when a presser was held on Friday May 19 at the Leafs practice facility, it was supposed to be all about giving Dubas a raise and a contract extension… but instead it turned Dubas was fired.
And who can blame Shanahan for this? Dubas, the so-called “Boy Wonder” of NHL GMs, could only whine about his inability to seal the deal… you know, Toronto winning the Cup? Would you believe, two playoff series? Yikes.
In the final analysis, Dubas was someone who made millions at a desk job in which over the course of five years, all he accomplished was over-promising and under-delivering… yet he felt he was entitled to a raise and a contract extension… assuming that him and his family could cope with the “stress”? Are you kidding me? Some “Boy Wonder”!
You know folks, I have a bet with a friend: what’s going to happen first: the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup or… I die? Let me tell you, sports fans — the smart money is on the Grim Reaper…
ANYWAY, at the end of the day, here’s the deal: are younger people to blame for their inability to cope with the rigors of employment? Or maybe the blame goes to those social engineers of yester-decade… you know, the geniuses who decided that be it in academia or in sports, one can never lose and everyone is a champion. Isn’t that just setting up people up for failure when it comes to the workplace?
So just maybe participation trophies should be replaced by gold, silver and bronze participaction medals? Perhaps the policy for not handing in an assignment or taking a test means the student receives a well-earned zero grade as opposed to passing mark? Maybe so-called woke math teachers need to actually, you know, “follow the science”, subscribing to the fact that 2 plus 2 equals 4, and that it always has and that it always will, colonialism be damned?
Indeed, instead of turning a blind eye to abysmal performance or ignoring it altogether, we need to instill in youth that there is no shame in honest failure — but only based on the proviso that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again, the idea being that you try harder, with the ultimate goal of succeeding rather than failing — or simply not caring.
Otherwise, is it really any wonder that a growing number of young people are experiencing what they perceive to be mental illness in the workplace? They are simply being asked to perform hard work in a competitive environment. Sadly, for too many, this is an alien concept.
GUEST: True North Centre's Harrison Faulkner (@Harry__Faulkner on Twitter) joins the show to discuss Toronto's “safe supply” program, which allows citizens to access taxpayer-funded drug paraphernalia.