TAKING AN ACTIVE ROLE IN EMPLOYEE MENTAL HEALTH
By Bob Chrismas
Mental health challenges touch almost every Canadian. We all have a loved one or colleague dealing with mental health issues. One or more of your work colleagues, or employees are likely suffering, often in silence. Research finds over 20 per cent of workers have mental health challenges. Over 500,000 Canadians cannot work because of mental health issues.
Employers can only gain by helping to look after the mental health of their workforce. Improving employee mental health can reduce sick-time usage and increase productivity. Employers should consider what causes stress, support employee resilience, and have inclusive plans. We need to reduce ongoing stress, as well as crisis moments and trauma that can occur in any workplace.
What plans do you have in place for employee well-being if your workplace was to burn down or get robbed? How are you identifying causes of stress and employees’ response to it? We need to consider not only what occurs in the workplace but also the silent baggage that many carry to work. All these factors can affect the employee in the workplace. We now understand that in the past, we did far too little.
The signs and symptoms of stress and mental health issues are diverse. I will not even attempt to list them in this brief article. Money spent to assess and identify issues will have a high return on investment.
Some of the most obvious workplace stressors are also opportunities to improve. The first is showing we are aware and care. Promote mental health awareness. Assess resources and help employees understand and access them. Provide training for managers and front-line staff. Ask employees for input and show transparency in addressing their concerns. Sometimes we can reduce stress and improve morale at no more cost. It could be as simple as adjusting shift schedules or showing flexibility.
Identifying issues can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Employers can educate themselves on the common causes of stress. Develop processes to identify when staff is having difficulties. It could be as simple as well-being checks. Discuss decreased performance, increased complaints, or sick time usage. Sometimes there is a cause that we can fix.
Employees should know where they stand. Employers can improve this through open communication. Team meetings to highlight and raise awareness of processes and resources can help.
Management and employees should all be familiar with the process for post-traumatic events. They should know what to expect after a robbery or the death of a co-worker. It should not be only for drastic events.
I am reminded of a police psychologist who once said to me: Everyone experiences post-traumatic stress. Only some develop into full-blown disorders.
Employees also have a role to play in their own well-being. Management should remind them of the importance of relationships. Encourage them to practice mindfulness. Support and encourage physical health and resilient emotional well-being. Bringing in a yoga instructor or meditation leader for a lunch break can go a long way. Consider installing workout equipment and offering time to use it. We can remind employees about positive lifestyles, and work-home balance.
Most of this resonates as common sense. The reality is it does not happen on its own. It takes a deliberate effort and sensitivity to people’s well-being.
Bob Chrismas MPS, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral fellow with the Canadian Institute of Public Safety Research and Treatment. His current research focuses on mental health resources for emergency service personnel. Bob has served in law enforcement for over 35 years with a diverse policing career. Bob has published four books and many articles on justice-related issues. Learn more about Bob at BChrismas.com
It was an honour, and inspiring to take part in this weekend’s National symposium to end sex trafficking, with survivors and leaders from across Canada, gathering at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Honoured to join survivors, influencers, MLAs. MPs, Senators and supporters in signing the declaration for zero tolerance for human trafficking, making Canada the first to have such a global commitment. It will travel the globe, starting with this event in Winnipeg.
It was wonderful meeting colleagues from past work I have done in this area, and hearing mention of my current and forthcoming books on the topic.
DIO Press an equitable and socially-conscious peer reviewed publishing company
working with and for scholars and teachers to publish accessible and reasonably priced texts and monographs
Join Detective Jack Bondar and Dani Taylor on their continued journey to find her little sister Ali, abducted at 16 and missing for the past 14 years. This sequel to The River of Tears delves into the psyche of sex traffickers and their victims. It explores their internal and external conflicts and the trauma that trafficked people and their families endure. It also shows the post-traumatic stress that many police officers experience in their work. It is a story about our roots, and the way we all long at some point to come home.
Some early endorsements:
This sequel to The River of Tears continues the story of Dani Taylor and Detective Jack Bondar and their search for Dani’s trafficked sister Ali. The novel explores the trauma of the families of missing loved ones and the broad range of people working to counter trafficking and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women in North America. Young Indigenous women that are missing, trafficked, and murdered in Canada and the U.S. illustrate the prevalence of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and violence directed against Indigenous women. Dani and Jack’s pain, caring, and compassion is evident throughout their search for Ali in the hope they will find her. The story illustrates the human dignity of family members, survivors, and those working to stop the violence. The novel points out that families and those working to counter trafficking suffer from trauma and like the survivors need to heal.
Dr. Sean Byrne, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Manitoba
As an effective story-teller, Dr. Chrismas sheds light on the tension between the vulnerable and police in Canada while tackling the complicated, harsh and shameful reality of human sex trafficking in Canada. Dr. Chrismas gives us a glimpse into a world where human rights abuses occur daily and locally. Prevention can only occur if we know what this world looks like.
Cathy Peters. Anti-human trafficking prevention educator beamazingcampaign.org
Dr. Robert Chrismas continues to take real life experiences and adapt them into accurate and thoughtful fictional portrayals of human sex trafficking in Canada. This novel provides a portrayal into the hidden and unknown sex trafficking that has taken place in our shipping and ports entering and exiting Canada. Chrismas should be applauded for brining attention to this uncomfortable reality.
Dr. Susan McIntyre President The Hindsight Group
Over 30 years experience as an internationally recognized expert, research and policy advisor in sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation.
In this evocative and important story, Dr. Bob Chrismas reminds us that the violent, misogynist world of human trafficking is not a distant problem. It is happening everywhere, all around us. The author knows this world—he has spent his career fighting it. Dreamcatcher is a story about the everyday heroes who are battling human trafficking. The story highlights the agency of those working for positive change, both inside and outside the industry.
Dr. Amber Fletcher, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Social Studies
Academic Director, Community Engagement and Research Centre (CERC)
University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, (she/her)
The Canadian Criminal Justice Association
CJCCJ/Volume 64.3 (2022)
Sex industry slavery: Protecting Canada’s youth
By Robert Chrismas
Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2020. 277 p.
Robert Chrismas’ Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth offers a unique contribution to the existing adolescent sexual exploitation and human trafficking discourse by presenting the author’s practical solution-based research using a comprehensive qualitative approach. Whereas much of the available youth sex trafficking research focuses on gathering headcounts of victims and providing ‘shock and awe’ estimates of the financial lucrativeness of the industry, Chrismas’ book helps to fill the persistent gap in effective responses to adolescent sex trafficking with first-hand perspectives of young sex trafficking survivors and the frontline service providers that are dedicated to helping them. The voice of each expert is qualitatively woven among the existing literature on this issue to answer Chrismas’ central thesis question: what can we learn from those working on the issue of youth sexual exploitation and from those most affected by it?
Although it is not explicitly organized using the United Nations’ “4Ps” pillars (i.e., prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership), Sex Industry Slavery achieves its purpose by compiling the collective knowledge of youth sex trafficking victims, law enforcement, social workers, policymakers, and other advocates to address challenges across the entire 4Ps continuum. From identifying at-risk and vulnerable youth to extricating youth who are entrenched in a life of sexual exploitation, to prosecuting traffickers and bolstering comprehensive aftercare supports for survivors, the book provides practical solutions for governments, law enforcement, and frontline service providers working to address this issue. Importantly, Chrismas does this by highlighting the narratives and insights of his research participants to offer a data storytelling approach to the practical solutions offered throughout.
Chrismas’ introduction positions child and youth sex trafficking in the larger sphere of various interrelated social and justice issues, including child maltreatment, child sexual abuse, social disparity, marginalization, prostitution, organized crime, and basic human rights. This is important as child and sex trafficking is a complex issue that has roots in all these issues. The author provides an in-depth discussion about the vulnerability of children that are victims of child abuse early in life, along with how social disparity, opportunistic exploiters, legislative shortcomings, and ongoing debates about victimization and agency in the sex industry continue to perpetuate opportunities for children and youth to be sexually exploited in Canada.
Leveraging these points, Chrismas’ book spans several important topics on youth sex trafficking in Canada, including the unique vulnerabilities and experiences of Indigenous women and girls, the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s anti-trafficking legislation, escaping the grip of entrenchment in the lifestyle of youth sexual exploitation, and recommendations for next steps at the government and community levels to effectively prevent youth exploitation, protect survivors, prosecute exploiters, and remove barriers to service through strategic interagency partnerships. These themes already comprise a sizable portion of the larger body of human trafficking discourse, however, Sex Industry
Slavery can provide a fresh, Canadian-centered, problem-solving perspective that is often missing from academic research on youth sexual exploitation. For example, much of the American literature on youth sex trafficking addresses the ongoing criminalization of young victims across the country. Many local and state government bodies, child protection ministries, and law enforcement agencies have only recently shifted their perspective on youth sexual exploitation away from the view that these youth are ‘juvenile prostitutes’ that should be criminalized, toward the understanding that sexually exploited youth are victims of abuse. Consequently, systems have been slow to respond to youth sexual exploitation. In Canada, however, child and youth sexual exploitation has been treated as a form of child abuse for nearly two decades, and so the need to advocate for these youth as victims is unnecessary. What Canada needs – and what Chrismas argues throughout Sex Industry Slavery – is to let the voices of experts and individuals with lived experience inform the development and implementation of a well-overdue action plan.
Sex Industry Slavery contributes to the larger body of human trafficking scholarship with its emphasis on the inclusion of stories and insights from survivors and other subject matter experts. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity” (Adichie, 2009). Through interviews with over sixty survivors of youth sex trafficking, Chrismas shares their raw and poignant stories, which serve to reiterate just how devastating and traumatizing sexual exploitation is for an individual.
These stories are critical to the discourse on youth sex trafficking as the available data both nationally and internationally on this issue does not adequately communicate the devastating impact on these youth, nor is it enough to solely serve as a catalyst for change among governments and systems. It often simply serves to inform rather than compel.
Chrismas’ research highlights the importance of telling the story behind the data to effect change. For example, a consistent underlying theme throughout Sex Industry
Slavery is that many survivors could have been protected from exploitation or saved from it much earlier if people or agencies knew what to look for and were able to respond. As Chrismas points out, “some survivors told gripping stories about how they could have been saved from trafficking and exploitation if someone in their care circle had recognized the signs and known how to intervene” (p. 124). Paying particular attention to the narratives of survivors is important, especially considering the persistent challenge of gathering accurate and reliable quantitative data that plagues research on human trafficking.
In addition to presenting survivor stories and insights to better understand and address youth sexual exploitation, Chrismas spends a considerable amount of time advocating for urgent action. He does not merely share survivor stories and insights from experts and practitioners as a way of lamenting all the challenges around addressing youth sex trafficking; instead, he compiles these perspectives into a full chapter of key findings and recommendations for responses that will lead to tangible impacts in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. With a focus on community-based, multidisciplinary approaches to youth sex trafficking, Chrismas provides his reader with a comprehensive roadmap for change that includes calls for increased funding, improved access to treatment and aftercare supports for survivors, increased law enforcement capacity to investigate and charge exploiters, strengthened community collaboration and partnership, and enhanced education, training, and awareness across sectors and stakeholder groups. Although Chrismas’ findings and recommendations do not deviate from much of the existing research on youth sexual exploitation, his research adds significant value to the growing – albeit slowly – body of Canadian literature.
Sex Industry Slavery is a worthwhile read for students, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, human trafficking advocates, policy makers, and any other stakeholder with an interest in understanding how to better respond to youth sexual exploitation. Anyone, regardless of their existing experience and expertise on human trafficking, can acquire new knowledge from the insights provided through Chrismas’ research.
CRYSTAL HINCKS (MA) FOURTEEN FIELDS INC. PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR (CALGARY, AB)
Honoured today to attend Camp Arnez and speak with and encourage future leaders from across the North, students from Frontier School Division.
Interview with Richard Cloutier CJOB/Global News
on social conditions and policing in Winnipeg, wrapping up 2021
Interview on The River of Tears with Richard Cloutier, CJOB/Global News, done standing at Higgins & Main, in the heart of city’s core, ending 2021.