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Wellbeing: Everybody's business

Every Issue

Cite as: August 2015 89 (8) LIJ, p.93

There are important steps you can take to  improve mental health in your workplace.

As you read this, around one in six Australian workers is experiencing mental illness. In some occupations, particularly those that involve mental stress or trauma, the rate is even higher.

Depression and anxiety are the leading cause of long-term absence due to sickness in the developed world and projected to be the biggest cause of long-term disability by 2030.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, so a senior partner is just as susceptible as the receptionist, possibly even more so. From a business perspective, this means substantial costs to productivity and operations. From a human angle, it means more and more qualified people are becoming marginalised from workforces where they could potentially make a worthwhile contribution.

As awareness of workplace mental health issues has increased, more and more businesses are looking for solutions. A simple online search for workplace mental health will pull up thousands of results recommending everything from motivational talks to meditation. So, which approach is best?

A comprehensive global analysis by Black Dog Institute researchers has identified evidence-based interventions that will improve mental health in your workplace.

With all due respectMental illness doesn’t discriminate, so a senior partner is just as susceptible as the receptionist.

Seven steps to better workplace mental health

Understand – Every workplace is different so it is important to understand who your audience is and how the best outcome can be achieved.

Involve – Increase employee engagement in the aspects of work that impact their mental health. Examples could include flexible working conditions and variable performance management structures.

Educate – Implement workplace health promotion campaigns that encourage workers to become more aware of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and where support can be obtained.

Lead – Provide leadership training at all levels to ensure managers are confident in recognising the signs of mental illness, facilitating support and accessing appropriate workplace adjustments.

Target – Acknowledge that some occupations have a higher risk and proactively encourage workers to improve their resilience through evidence-based early intervention programs such as Black Dog’s interactive self-help service myCompass.org.au.

Engage – Develop and encourage multi-level peer support or mentoring schemes to develop a safe framework for staff to seek support.

Plan – Develop a dedicated and accessible return to work program to assist those who have had to take leave for mental health reasons.

Tips
Managing mental health in the workplace can be a daunting task, but the good news is some great resources have now been made available.
  • The Black Dog Institute has developed a range of advisory and education programs using research evidence and best practice. Find out more at www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/education/workplace
  • The Heads Up campaign was developed by the national Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance as a source of information for large and small businesses. Find out more at www.headsup.org.au
  • Lifeline is always available on 13 11 14 should any staff member require immediate support during a mental health crisis.

  • Jonathan Tennant, is head of education at Black Dog Institute.

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