Want To Know About Workplace Mental Health In Australia?
A study conducted by PwC (2014) estimated that mental illness in the Australian economy is costing us approximately $11 billion per year. Further assessments on mental health in Australia can be made by focusing in on how well we ranked on the United Nationals Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, 2018). The most recent report card shows that Australians very much enjoy good health, however, our mental well-being ranking indicates room for improvement. Our at-risk areas include high rates of suicide, stress, drugs and alcohol consumption.

What can you do about it?
An early intervention approach is recommended to encourage a preventative strategy to reduce the impact that mental ill health can have on your business.

If you are interested in creating good workplace mental health in Australia. Ask us how?

How To Create Positive Mental Health In The Workplace?
Mental health and wellness in the workplace start by focusing on the causes and the reasons for the prevalence of workplace stress. Are there areas in your business where mental health could be at risk? A good proactive strategy will put into place opportunities for staff to recognize early warning signs, where the employer will provide treatment, support, and recovery within the workplace setting.

Mind Blank’s workplace mental health programs create an interactive experience where workshop attendees can walk away knowing the value of self-care application, how to promote a speak-up culture and knowledge on the important pathways to seek help to encourage emotional and mental wellness. Practical application of any of the above skills has the potential to increase an individual’s chances of early intervention and their health and well-being.

Our innovative programs provide proactive solutions to educate serious subject matter in a fun, safe and non-threatening manner. We work alongside health service providers and use a combination of lived experience and best practice methodology. Here are some examples of our evidence-based programs in a community setting:

- Mental Health in Primary Schools
- Mental Health in High Schools
- Health Programs for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Youths

Here is a snapshot of some of the feedback from one of our clients:
Data Western Syndey 2018

How To Support Staff Who May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health?
Tip 1: In our opinion, it is important to not lower the expectations of the employee. Instead, aim to host a conversation with them and accommodate some areas of the position in order to get the most out of the worker. People with mental health conditions are extremely capable of excellent work they just may approach the position differently to others and may need extra support in maintaining long term employment.

Tip 2: Disclosure of a mental health condition is not essential in creating a supportive workplace culture.

Tip 3: It is a duty of care for employers to be invested in supporting their staff, and it is their responsibility to know how to manage a team member to the best of their abilities.

Tip 4: It is essential for all workplaces to create a culture to feel safe, welcomed and accepted.

There are some great service providers who can provide support for further strategic development and ongoing sustainable support. Here is a resource from the Black Dog providing a valuable tool kit to promote workplace mental health and well-being.

A Practical Application to Workplace Mental Health Support
We have found that when working in a culture of support a good rapport can build trust which can lead to long term staff relationships. Our team has worked with staff who have required additional mental health support for years. Relationships can be created where disclosure of mental illness occurs. If this happens we encourage healthy and open conversations sharing any major symptoms and triggers that the individual may have if they become unwell.

Here are some examples of some small adjustments we have work with our staff on to take a mental health condition into account

Examples include:
- Flexibility with hours. E.g. Shorter shifts, more days per week and/ or a later starting time.
- Building up hours over time.
- Flexibility with breaks. E.g. Taking frequent and shorter breaks throughout the day instead of a block amount of time for a break.
- Sitting rather than standing.
- Allowing the space for employees to work at their own pace whilst training for a few months afterward. Employees will evidently be more productive in the long run.
- Appropriate and effective supervision. E.g. mentoring or buddying system in the beginning phases of the employment.
- Feedback from an employee on how they are traveling after every shift.
- Frequent reviews, maybe every two weeks and then every month for the length of the entire employment.

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What Does a Mentally Health Workplace Look like?
A workplace that provides thorough and effective training. At times there extensive and repetitive training may be required.
Management outlines and identifies clear job requirements with an accurate job description. Workers can feel supported in identifying difficulties that certain tasks and employers can have flexibility in how to manage these difficulties. Putting systems in place to assist with any issues.
A culture that minimises stress as much as possible.
Employers can make sure that the job requirements match the employees’ capabilities, resources, and needs.
Opportunities for professional development and added training.
Businesses can equip themselves to understand the implications of work performance regarding anxiety. Doing so can provide an environment where the employee feels comfortable to raise the areas of work which they may be concerned are causing anxiety and to provide adjustment in order to reduce anxiety and put the employee at ease.
Implementing processes slowly to support independence and empowerment within the role.
Building up confidence slowly by not overwhelming employee in the beginning phases of employment.
For the organisation to develop leadership to support a healthy organisational culture and values.

There are some great networking groups in Australia that promote healthy well-being practice in the workplace. For example, the WayAhead Workplaces are a great group to look into as a starting point. There is also The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, a National collaborative group aiming to make a stronger impact together.

Want to create good workplace mental health in Australia? Ask us how?

Author's Bio: 

Ally Kelly is the CEO & Founder of Mind Blank Ltd. For years she has been grass roots social advocate and a firm believer in early intervention. She has led the charity through seven years of service, for which her efforts were recognised in winning the 2017 Mental Health Matters Award for Mental Health Promotion.

Ally is an experienced senior manager in the non-profit sector. Previously, her roles outside of Mind Blank included work in the social services supporting marginalised community members and outreach services support to rough sleepers.

In 2018 Ally complete her Masters in Humanitarian studies majoring in research in social justice, inequality and humanitarian affairs. She believes that primary prevention offers the greatest hope for intervention recovery and therefore takes every opportunity to educate the community to recognise the early signs of mental illness, without stigmatising or discriminating.