Toronto Education Workers Local 4400 (TEW) is made up of approximately 17,000 education workers working primarily within the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). TEW is also home to childcare workers from various childcare centres and caretakers from Viamonde French Board, representing over 400 job classifications and over 1,000 worksites.
Case Study Highlights
Started The Working Mind Training: 2018
Leaders Trained So Far: 900+
The TDSB is the largest and one of the most diverse school boards in Canada, serving approximately 247,000 students in 583 schools throughout Toronto, and more than 130,000 life-long learners in their adult and continuing education programs.
Mental Health in the Workplace
TEW members are constantly providing help and support to others and face a range of mental health challenges, including the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. However, these generous individuals often fail to take their own mental health into account.
Thankfully, the TDSB has taken a very active role in promoting mental health resources to its employees. For instance, beginning in 2018, it began offering the opportunity for employees to take The Working Mind (TWM) training. Likewise, TEW has also championed mental health to its members. Cherill Hiebert and Mara Boedo, both Executive Officers for TEW and employees of the TDSB, have been mental health advocates for over 30 years.
Fifteen years ago, Hiebert and Boedo began offering training and resources through the Members’ Action Centre/Toronto Education Workers.
“This Centre covers everything: assistance with emotional effects of job loss, mental health resources, and other free resources in the community, whether it’s mental health, financial difficulties, or finding employment. We have hundreds and hundreds of free resources for members, and we love to share them,” Hiebert explained. Through the Members’ Action Centre, Hiebert and Boedo have seen a steady increase in the number of members that have come to them with stress and mental health challenges.
“We were very fortunate to get funding that allowed for the training of facilitators to deliver The Working Mind,” Hiebert said.
The Working Mind is an evidence-based program designed to promote mental health and reduce the stigma around mental illness in the workplace by proving participants with tools to assess their own mental health, identify signs and symptoms, and develop healthy coping strategies.
Both Hiebert and Boedo are certified facilitators of The Working Mind for TEW and TDSB, and together have helped train close to 1,000 employees.
“We trained as Facilitators, advocated and began actively promoting The Working Mind in all our Members’ Action Centre Workshops,” Hiebert explained. “Recognizing the need to promote The Working Mind even further, we created promotional materials to promote and advertise it to our 17,000 members.”
Boedo shared that her passion for this work came from the realization that in the past there wasn’t much mental health support, and she vowed to take action. “When I became a Facilitator, I realized it was the best decision of my life. It gave me the power to understand what happened with me and what I could do about it,” she said. “Now I feel empowered to teach and show anyone that they are not alone. I have tools and I have the experience. This has helped me open a whole new life for myself and to help people understand that they can do it too.”
Hiebert and Boedo have continued to work diligently to find new ways to help their fellow union members address mental health issues and offer resources to ensure members have the necessary tools.