Panelists from left to right: Katie Thompson of the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler; Sarah Lloyd of BDC; Lisa Coulter of Whistler Community Services Society.

On Thursday, April 25, more than 100 Whistlerites gathered at the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa for the Chamber’s Business Lunch: Mental Health in the Workplace presented by BDC.

This lunch was designed to not just highlight the challenges we all face when it comes to mental health in the workplace, but also to answer important questions and offer practical tips for Whistler employers and employees.

It’s a big topic, so we invited three local leaders in the field to speak, share their wisdom, and answer questions.

The Panelists

First to speak was Sarah Lloyd, CPA & CBV, Business Centre Manager with BDC supporting the North Shore and Sea to Sky.

Sarah presented some key points from a recent BDC survey about mental health amongst entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly, inflation was one of the top stressors for entrepreneurs, and almost half (45%) of Canadian business owners indicated they felt mental health challenges in 2023 (up from 38% just a year prior).

Next up was Katie Thompson, CPHR, Director for People & Culture at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler. Katie has a wealth of experience in leadership, and was the driver for major local employee benefit overhauls that put wellness and well-being at the forefront.

The third and final panelist was Lisa Coulter, Director of Social Services with Whistler Community Services Society. Lisa’s work focuses on advocating for those most underserved, and on collaborating with local businesses to enhance support services in the community.

Business Lunch: Mental Health in the Workplace at the Hilton Resort & Spa.

Four Top Tips

Amongst the talks and question and answer time, the three panelists covered a variety of pressing topics.

#1. One of the key points was to keep in mind that most employers and HR managers are simply not professionals in the mental health space. In that case, your role as a leader is not to be the therapist, but to make the connection between the person in need and a professional who has the skills to make a real difference.

You are not in it alone,” – Lisa Coulter

#2. An audience question asked the panelists about how to manage an employee who is having both performance issues and mental health struggles at work. The panelists suggested pausing the work performance issue to focus on the mental health issue. Often, improving the latter can fix the former as well. Alternatively, employers can consider if the employee might do better with more flexible hours, different responsibilities, or a different role altogether.

#3. Importantly, the question of how employers can manage their own mental health when faced with so many heavy, confronting situations. As Katie pointed out, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” You must prioritize your own wellness, determine what fills your cup, and not compromise it – or you will burn out.

“You need to make a deposit in the emotional bank account every day” – Katie Thompson

#4. How can we get a struggling employee to open up to their employer? The most significant and overarching theme was to be proactive in building that trust and relationship, starting from the employee onboarding process. Build camaraderie early; be present in the workplace; don’t be afraid to hang out in the kitchen, or walk through employee areas. Most importantly, when you ask someone how they’re doing, really pause with them – not just in passing in the hallway – so you can take the time to truly listen.


Katie Thompson interacts with the audience at the Mental Health Business Lunch.

 Tools for employers

  • Whistler Community Services Society: A team of Outreach workers are available at no cost for Whistler locals to offer support for anyone experiencing mental health challenges and other issues.
  • Chambers Plan: The Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance offers a number of health & wellness benefits including professional counselling services, mental health programs with tools for stress, depression, anxiety, sleep issues and more.
  • SafeTalk: A 3.5-hour online workshop for those looking how to deal with people considering suicide, and how to best offer help.
  • Mental Health First Aid: An evidence-based online course designed to improve mental health literacy, and to provide the skills and knowledge necessary to help those around you.
  • ASIST: A leading suicide intervention skills training program.
  • The Crisis and Trauma Research Institute: Live virtual workshops and valuable seminars to help you address trauma, promote mental health, develop your counselling skills, and prevent violence.
  • Vancouver Crisis Centre: Excellent training courses and tools for employers, as well as services and support for employees.
  • BDC’s Mental health support for entrepreneurs: BDC has partnered with Inkblot Therapy by GreenShield Health to offer their clients free virtual therapy sessions.
  • BDC’s recent study: on entrepreneur well-being and mental health in the workplace.
  • WorkSafe BC: Mental Health Treatment services are available through WorkSafe BC and include Resiliency support, mental health recovery and return-to-work treatment and more.

Business Lunches with the Whistler Chamber of Commerce


The Mental Health Lunch was made possible with the help of our presenting partner BDC, as well as our Platinum Community Partner the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. Gold Partners Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, and The Whistler Grocery Store all also came on board to support the event.

And of course, a huge thank yous to the Hilton Resort & Spa for hosting so flawlessly, and providing a delicious three-course lunch for attendees.

We’d also love to thank our wonderful prize sponsors, who added a great moment of fun and plenty of excitement for the winners: Whistler Personnel Solutions, Nonna Pia’s, Brahmi Skincare Whistler, True Nature Wilderness Therapy, and CaraCopia.

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