Australia, 11 September 2023 - Australian businesses are urged to throw their support behind R U OK Day, a national campaign aimed at raising awareness around mental health issues and suicide prevention. The annual event takes place on Thursday 14 September, and encourages people to start conversations about mental health, checking in with friends, family, and colleagues.
1According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, almost half of all Australians are estimated to have experienced a mental disorder at some point in their lives, with more than one in five experiencing a mental disorder in the last 12 months. That means your employees are likely to be impacted. And because we spend so much of our lives at work, these problems can become workplace issues that need addressing too.
2Mental Health First Aid states that, employees with mental health issues have an average of 16.2 weeks off from work—triple the time off for other illnesses. But, if employers look to prioritise mentally healthy workplaces, they can expect to see participation rates soar by as much as 30%. Therefore, employers must take responsibility to improve employee support. And what better time too, as we near R U OK Day?
BrigthHR Australia Operations Manager, Mollie Eckersley advocates for employers to champion a shift in culture, where mental health can be openly discussed, and effective support measures are implemented in the workplace. Eckersley provides employers with five steps they can take to gain momentum in workplaces:
Provide mental health training
For many, there’s still a stigma and feelings of awkwardness when it comes to opening the dialogue but rolling out training to managers and employees alike can help raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce biases at work. It can help them to spot any early warning signs of poor mental health and equip them with the tools to approach conversations sensitively and appropriately.”
Introduce mental health first aid responders
Mental health is equally as important as physical health, and so just as an employer would have first responders in their team, they should consider the importance of qualified mental health first responders too. Serving as the first point of contact for their colleagues, a mental health first responder would be able to lend a listening ear and effectively signpost to relevant support. Regardless of training, there are some people who may not feel comfortable in raising any concerns to their manager or employees. But having specified and trained mental health first responders in place can show that workplaces are taking mental health seriously.
Don’t underestimate communication
Given the busy nature of workplaces, it might be easy to postpone or cancel a 1-2-1 meeting here and there. But regular communication is vital to ensure that employees have a platform to raise any concerns, and that in response, adequate support can be provided. With frequent meetings with their staff, employers can address issues as and when they arise, instead of letting them fester and spiral into something unmanageable.
Provide support to manage symptoms
Once an employer is aware of a mental health condition in an employee, they will need to look at ways to support them.
Mental illnesses can make it hard for employees to stay engaged and productive at work. And whilst many might suffer through the symptoms, it could be that minor changes—like flexible working, extra or longer breaks, and occasional homeworking—are just the ticket in making hem feel more comfortable and supported at work.
Note that some mental health conditions might also be covered by the definition of disability in the Disability Discrimination Act. This stipulates that there’s a duty of care to provide such reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination.
Molly Chandran – Public Relations Specialist, Employsure
M: 0438 560 779 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org