World Mental Health Day 2023 Q&A with Marie-Soleil Ferland and the Health and Wellbeing Team at CGI Canada

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Sinakho Dhlamini
Content Marketing Specialist

World Mental Health Day 2023 Q&A with Marie-Soleil Ferland and the Health and Wellbeing Team at CGI Canada 
Earlier this week, on the 10th of October, we acknowledged World Mental Health Day. The day is a moment to give extra attention to issues around mental health. This year the WHO theme for the day is ‘Mental health is a universal right' and we are hoping to raise awareness and knowledge about mental health by highlighting how organisations can support their employee's mental health throughout October.  

To recognise the efforts of Top Employers were lucky to have a Q&A interview with Marie-Soleil Ferland and the Health and Wellbeing Team at CGI Canada. We were honoured to get an insight into their efforts around wellbeing and mental health in their organisation. 

CGI Health & Wellbeing Team Introduction 

CGI wholeheartedly acknowledges that the wellbeing of its workforce stands as the bedrock of its success. We hold in the highest esteem a culture deeply rooted in mental health awareness, a commitment that transcends mere obligation, forming an integral facet of an ecosystem that fosters personal and professional flourishing. 

These recent years have brought upon us an array of unprecedented challenges, compelling us to adapt, evolve, and unearth new ways to connect and thrive. At this juncture, never before has CGI placed such a high priority on mental health as we proudly do today. 

On World Mental Health Day, we, at CGI, once again stand with unwavering pride as we pay homage to the mental wellbeing of our invaluable workforce. We celebrate the resilience of our esteemed members and the nurturing spirit of the compassionate community that we have ardently cultivated for over two decades now. Together, we break barriers, dismantle stigma, and forge a brighter, healthier future. 

As part of this year World Mental Health Day, celebrated on October 10, it’s important to remember that everybody has mental health, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc. For some, it can be challenging to know or realize when to reach out for help. 


Read More: Mental Health Q&A: Bentley 

We celebrated World Mental Health Day on 10 October. The theme for 2023, set by the World Foundation of Mental Health, is ‘Mental health is a universal human right’, so we were honoured to ask CGI Canada the following questions: 

Which organisational values that you hold help you to embed mental health as a right for all employees? And how do these values show up in day-to-day actions? 

Workplace Health & Wellbeing  

  • A dedicated Oxygen Centre of Expertise with 50 professionals globally willing and able to support partners and employees as needed. 
  • Promote a culture of compassion through skill building, empathy, and empowerment to reach out to those showing signs of difficulty. 
  • From prevention to return to work following a disability, support our employees, managers, and the organization on global health topics (physical, mental, social, financial) to optimize individual and collective wellbeing and organizational performance. 
  • Use Mental Health Minute Program cards to raise awareness and open conversations (see more information at question 5) 
  • Comprehensive Health Platform for all employees: Oxygen Portal 
  • Free Telemedicine Service for all members and their family 
  • Free 27/7 EAP support for all members and their family 
  • In-house wellbeing consultations that focus on prevention, identification, and mitigation of psychosocial risks 
  • In-house wellbeing interventions that promote staying healthy and thriving at work. 


Our values 

  • Respect:  
  • Consistent with CGI dream of creating an environment in which we enjoy working together, our Core Value of Respect and our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct, CGI is committed to fostering and maintaining professional workplaces that respect the dignity of all members. 
  • Offer mental health support through the Mental Health First Aiders network and leadership by promoting a stigma-free environment to discuss mental health. 
  • Hold public authentic conversations using panel discussions around various psycho-educational topics that breakdown barriers and drive respectful conversations around sensitive issues. 
  • Develop culturally sensitive and equity deserving group sensible health and wellbeing material. 
  • Safety:  
  • CGI is committed to the prevention of workplace incidents, injuries, and illnesses, and is ultimately responsible for ensuring a physically and psychologically safe and healthy work environment for all members. CGI will guide the development of individual performance and learning plans to achieve organizational goals while promoting members’ physical and psychological wellbeing in an active effort to reduce harm to their health and safety. 
  • Health and safety committees 
  • Health and wellbeing committees 
  • +120 employees-volunteers - Mental Health First Aiders willing and able to support employees in the workforce. 
  • Health and Safety Policy and processes including a working alone management rule. 
  • Health Crisis Protocol for psychological and/or physical emergency situations. 



  • Creating a welcoming and diverse workplace environment free of discrimination and harassment underpins everything we do. We aim to foster a culture of belonging where everyone is inspired to grow and empowered to succeed with a shared sense of purpose. We believe this starts with creating an environment where every voice is heard, and respected and different ways of thinking are welcomed. Diversity of thought, backgrounds, experiences, and skills empowers us to share ideas and drive innovation. At the same time, ensuring everyone feels included raises morale, creativity, and productivity among our members, helping them reach their full potential. Through stakeholder communications, we continuously reinforce that diversity, equity, and inclusion are clear, prominent, and inherent parts of the CGI culture. 
  • Cultivating inclusive language (i.e., inclusive pronoun and gender language in employee representative surveys, providing gender transitioning support, and accommodations for physical, mental or cognitive support needs). 
  • Upskill leaders and HR around neurodiversity. 
  • Upskill leaders and HR around supporting members who are transitioning. 
  • Provide inclusive benefits 
  • Flexible work policies 
  • Affinity groups and allyship 
  • Mental health support that is sensitive to cultural differences and experiences 
  • Accessible technology for those who require accommodations. 
  • Inclusive hiring practices 
  • Conflict resolution and support interventions 



  • Creating a culture of belonging requires conscious and intentional effort. Our DE&I strategy is foundational to the growth and success of our company. It provides a framework for cooperation that empowers our members to show up as their complete, authentic selves at work. We are committed to driving positive cultural change by increasing diversity in our workforce and embracing the differences in race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, and disability status, and the intersectionality of one or more of these characteristics. Moreover, we recognize that it is every individual’s right to work in an environment free of sexual, psychological, and racial harassment. 
  • DE&I is endorsed at the highest level in the company by the CEO and the Executive Committee of CGI. Oversight and accountability for DE&I is a shared responsibility with global and local steering committees to set direction, report on progress and approve programs and initiatives. DE&I is embedded in the annual business plans for each Strategic Business Unit. The Code of Ethics and global and local policies create the framework to protect our members, clients, communities and CGI and ensure compliance with all applicable requirements. Beyond our formal governance, we have an engaged group of global DE&I experts, champions and advocates who support our DE&I vision every day. This broader community is essential to amplify the reach of our DE&I activities and increase the engagement of our members. 
  • Diverse representation 


Read More: How Organisations are Reshaping their Work Environments to Promote Mental Health 

World Mental Health Day 2023 

At CGI, there are a variety of free resources to help our members prioritize their mental health and offer additional support when they may be struggling. They can access free mental health resources in the Mental Wellbeing Toolbox on our internal health & wellbeing portal, contact a Mental Health Champion, or consult with our Member Assistance Program for professional support. As part of this campaign, a publication will be made on the CGI LinkedIn account to celebrate and highlight the CGI community that is involved in mental health support and the overall holistic health of our members. CGI’s health experts gathered testimonials from members within the Mental Health Champion network and the Health & Wellbeing Committee by asking the question, “Why is supporting mental health in the workplace important to you and your colleagues?”. You will find the testimonials shared on October 10 and will be able to use the hashtag #CGIMentalHealthMatters to find other mental health stories shared by CGI members, and to share your own. 

How have your mental health programmes evolved in the past year? Are there aspects that have moved up the priority list and/or taken on greater urgency? 
In response to the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and its impact on chronic stress, isolation and domestic violence, our mental health programs have evolved significantly in the past year. We have placed additional emphasis on addressing the reactive aspect of the mental health continuum. This means that we have augmented our efforts to provide immediate and responsive support to individuals who are experiencing acute mental health challenges, such as stress, anxiety, trauma, or burnout. 
Recognizing the heightened need for timely interventions, we have developed and implemented targeted initiatives designed to assist members in managing and coping with punctual stressors. These measures have allowed us to better address the immediate mental health needs of our workforce, ensuring that they receive the support and resources necessary to navigate these challenging times effectively avoiding potential deterioration or illness. 

Aspects that have moved up in priority and taken on greater urgency: 

  • Substantial increase in mental health coverage for our members and their families. 
  • Expanding our internal Mental Health First Aid network by offering and covering the cost of certification to all interested volunteer members. 
  • Hiring of an Organizational Mental Health Specialist to further expand internal services and interventions. 
  • Health crisis protocol to upskill HR professionals and leaders in assessing an imminent and critical health risk in an employee, predominantly in a virtual setting, and responding to the risk as deemed appropriate using external resources.   
  • Domestic and family violence program to develop organizational awareness, respond by providing support and accompanying employee victims to adequate and necessary resources. 
  • Neurodiversity Affinity group and program to cultivate an inclusive, collaborative and supportive CGI community by fostering awareness around neurodiversity, building internal knowledge, advocating for supportive practices, and building internal and external partnerships that promote best inclusive practices. 
  • In-house Interventions (stress management, sensitivity coaching, conflict resolution, climate assessment, etc.) facilitated via our internal Workplace Mental Health Specialist. 
  • Revision of CGI’s Presence at Work Program 
  • Always ensuring the presence and visibility of a group of more than 120 volunteer Mental Health First Aiders ready to support any member in need during our trainings or psychoeducational sessions or initiatives. 
  • Additional Family Support: Upgrades in our Telemedicine program, EAP services and benefits coverage to improve all services related to mental health support & access for employees and their family. 

Read More: Embracing Diversity and Improving Inclusion: Making LGBTQ+ Inclusivity a Part of Company Culture 

How have mental health programmes and initiatives been impacted by more flexible, hybrid and remote forms of working? What have you had to do differently?  
The shift to a more flexible workplace and openness to virtual work has acted as a catalyst for fostering greater inclusion and accessibility in our organization, creating a more accommodating and supportive environment for neurodivergent and equity deserving groups within our workforce. 
The transition to virtual work has created a more inclusive environment by levelling the playing field for employees who may have previously faced challenges in traditional office settings. Neurodivergent individuals, for instance, have found the virtual work environment to be more accommodating, reducing sensory overload and anxiety that can be associated with physical office spaces. Additionally, remote work has enabled employees to tailor their workspaces to their specific needs, allowing for greater comfort and reduced distractions. This flexibility has not only benefited neurodivergent individuals but also other equity-deserving groups who may have faced barriers in the traditional office setting due to various factors, including commuting challenges, accessibility issues, or caregiving responsibilities. 
One significant shift we've made is toward virtual facilitation of trainings and interventions. This transition has proven highly beneficial as it enables us to intervene more rapidly and on a broader scale across the organization. In fact, by leveraging virtual platforms, we can extend our reach to cover a much larger population than would have been feasible with in-person programs alone. This approach not only aligns with the evolving work landscape but also allows us to be more agile and responsive in addressing mental health needs throughout the organization. 

Read More: How Saint-Gobain Prioritises New Ways of Working into their Company Culture 

How have you ensured that your managers are reinforcing mental health as a right for all employees? And are they trained to recognise and address mental health issues in their teams?  

Yes, we have implemented an internal training program known as "Leading Healthy Teams," which is specifically designed to equip our managers with the skills necessary to identify signs of mental health challenges and appropriately respond to them. Additionally, we have developed a quick-reference tool in the form of a cheat-sheet, readily accessible through our online Health platform, the "Oxygen Portal" within the "Leaders Toolbox" section. 

In conjunction with these mandatory training initiatives, we have consistently offered various additional learning opportunities to our leaders over the past years. These include specialized training modules covering topics such as Resilience at Work, Burnout Prevention, Stress Management, Work-life Balance, and Self-Care for Leaders. These programs collectively enable our managers to reinforce mental health as a fundamental right for all employees while equipping them with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively address mental health issues within their teams. Our leaders are also encouraged to take part in Mental Health First Aid certification. We are proud to share that over 46% of our mental health ambassadors hold management positions at CGI. Thus, it's fair to say that mental health at CGI is an integral part of our operating culture. 

How do you create psychological safety for employees to feel they have a right to speak up about their mental health concerns, without worrying about how it will affect their careers? 

  1. Destigmatize mental health: 
  • Leadership upskilling and training around courageous conversations and authenticity 
  • Discussion Panels such as Mental Health For All 
  • Leaders speaking openly and publicly about their challenges with mental health including burnout, suicidality, domestic violence, neurodiversity, etc. 
  • The Mental Health Minute Program  
  • Equips all our leaders and members with Mental Health Minute “cards” that they can use to kick-off every team meeting  
  • Encourages leaders, and members, to take advantage of a moment of openness with their team to discuss common challenges and normalize topics surrounding health and wellbeing 
  • Provides authenticity and empathy building opportunities through sharing real-life experiences and examples. 
  • Upskills leaders and members on day-to-day actions that can be put in place to support their health. 
  • Psychoeducational awareness through interactive learning sessions, newsletters, CGI’s health & wellbeing portal, wellbeing consultations and various communication channels 
  • Mental Health Champion Network 
  • Network composed of more than 120 CGI members who have volunteered and received a Mental Health First Aider certification training offered by the Mental Health Commission of Canada 
  • Aiders are available to respond to requests or calls from members in need by initiating a caring conversation through dialogue, accompanying them to help defuse a situation, and guiding them to the right resources and support. 
  • Neurodiversity Affinity Group 
  • Sharing how to open to a leader about a neurodivergent trait. 
  • How to respond as a leader to show support 
  1. Ensure promotional practices that foster and support diversity and inclusion. 
  2. Socialize accommodation program for any member regardless of job role.  
  3. Assess and mitigate psychological risk factors within teams who are struggling. 
  4. Team wellbeing assessments 
  • Mediation 
  • Trauma debriefs. 



About Marie-Soleil Ferland 

HR Director 

Health & Well-being, CGI Canada 

Passionate leader of CGI Canada Occupational Health and Well-being HR Center of expertise. She is responsible for the development of innovative organizational health offering, their implementation, and their measure of success. She sits on human resources committees to effectively integrate workplace health into business strategies. Her mission is to optimize not only the overall well-being of employees but also to encourage meaning at work, inclusion, and organizational performance. She provides ongoing consulting services to HR teams and leaders. She holds a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and a graduate certificate in nutrition. In addition to numerous specific training sessions on occupational health, psychosocial risks, and protective factors, she is certified in Mental Health First Aid, Workplace First Aid and Behaviour Change Interventionist. Her caring and inclusive leadership is recognized by her peers. 

Read More: The Lasting Impact of Burnout 

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World Mental Health Day 2023 Q&A with Marie-Soleil Ferland and the Health and Wellbeing Team at CGI Canada

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