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This free program is helping businesses create accessible workplaces for people with mental health disabilities

YES WorkAbility is a new nation-wide initiative that aims to help businesses in B.C. foster inclusive work environments for persons with mental health disabilities
YES WorkAbility is a free employer training initiative by Youth Employment Services, fostering inclusive workplaces for employees with mental health disabilities. Photo via Workability

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health issue or mental illness.

Across the employment sector in Canada, persons with mental health disabilities are often overlooked for work opportunities. According to findings from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, unemployment rates are as high as 70% to 90% for people with the most severe mental health illnesses, meaning individuals with a mental health illness are far less likely to be employed.

Due to the knowledge gap of creating accessible workplaces that accommodate the needs of workers who identify with having a mental health disability, employers are missing out on an opportunity to employ dedicated and skilled talent at an alarming rate. 

Recognizing the need to provide top-down support, Youth Employment Services YES has launched the YES WorkAbility (YWA) project. This free employer training initiative is designed to assist businesses in creating inclusive and accessible workplaces to support employees who identify with mental health disabilities.

“Through WorkAbility, we will address the misconceptions employers may have by explaining how mental health may present and what employers can do to create a psychologically safe workplace, starting with workplace culture training for leadership and HR personnel,” says Tim Lang, president and CEO of YES..

Delivered both in-person and online, the program will educate employers on the benefits and resources available for hiring, onboarding and promoting employees with mental health disabilities, by offering a range of resources, coaching and training on various well-being topics such as Mental Health in the Workplace 101, Building Organizational Capacity, Onboarding, Accommodations and more. 

“The program will help companies take tangible steps and simple investments into their work culture that will ultimately create a positive ROI for themselves and create a happier and healthier workforce,” says Lang.

As part of this initiative, YWA will provide opportunities for employers to participate in peer networking events, with the first event to be held at the Museum of Vancouver on Apr. 10. Workability: Creating Psychologically Safe Workplaces will feature award-winning mental health speaker Victoria Maxwell as the keynote speaker. The free event will include a panel discussion centered around the topic of mental health in the workplace, from which employers will gain valuable takeaways. A job fair will take place after lunch, connecting employers with potential job candidates. Those interested in attending the WorkAbility: Creating Psychologically Safe Workplaces event can register here.  

As the leading provider of employment support for youth in Canada, YES understands the challenges faced by those who are experiencing mental health disabilities when it comes to job hunting. 

For over 50 years, YES has offered free programs and services – including employability training, mentorship opportunities with industry leaders, and a specialized career program designed for those who self-identify with having mental health disabilities – to help job seekers overcome barriers to employment and enter into the job market. 

Through YWA, YES aims to work directly with employers and managers to identify, address and remove misconceptions and barriers impacting their workplace inclusion, and to help organizations thrive in creating mentally healthy environments for all employees.

By taking proactive measures and being part of culture shifting conversations, such as the WorkAbility roundtable  on Apr. 10, businesses can be part of shaping the future of the workplace by fostering more inclusive and compassionate work environments – resulting in stronger organizations as a whole.

Go to for more information on the YES WorkAbility initiative.