R U OK? DAY is a national initiative which encourages Australians to ask their loved ones, colleagues and strangers alike an important yet simple question – ‘are you okay?’- with the intent of starting an honest conversation about mental health.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 3.2 million Australians suffered from a mental disorder in a 12-month period. Recent research has exposed the harsh reality that with 1 in 5 Australians suffering from mood disorders such as depression and anxiety it’s more than likely that you know someone who is suffering and more commonly than not, they’re suffering in silence.
Depression and anxiety can have a huge impact on a person’s physical health, relationships and career. With such alarming figures it’s a reminder to employers to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act. The act states health is not limited to just the physical, it is inclusive of the psychological state of the employee and workplaces must treat all employees with ill mental health in the same manner they approach and manage physical illnesses.
Workplaces often go above and beyond to comply with the code to guarantee they meet regulations when it comes to physical First Aid, which we commend them for. But does your workplace Health and Safety procedure include monitoring and preserving the mental health status of your employees? Follow our guidelines on how to address mental health in the workplace and encourage a mentally healthy culture among employees.
Mental health issues can be caused by a number of factors ranging from genetics, personality traits, trauma, bereavement, serious medical illness or stress at work.
Work stress has been reported as the leading cause of occupational disease and injury in Australia, causing one in five employees to take time off for mental health reasons over a 12 month period.
Almost half of Australian employees believe their workplace is mentally unhealthy which should be enough to raise the alarm to employers to address and assess their workplace culture. We congratulate those employers who invest in their employees’ psychological health by creating a positive work environment at and implementing an effective action plan for those suffering mentally, encouraging their fellow employers to follow suit.
In the past, employee mental health has been overlooked but experts are advocating that if you want your employees to be productive, effective and innovative you must make the effort to ensure they are coping mentally.
Mood disorders such as anxiety and/or depression are the most common mental health issues in the workplace. If you think an employee or colleague might be suffering from a mood disorder consider whether they are displaying the following symptoms:
|Nervousness||Inability to concentrate|
|Irritability||Sick and run down all the time|
|Low mood, sadness or anger||Loss of appetite|
|Change in personality||Significant weight loss or gain|
|Withdrawing from work friends||Increase in absent days|
|Not completing tasks|
If an employee or colleague is displaying a number of these signs or symptoms follow our tips on ‘What Is Mental Health First Aid and How Can I Help in a Crisis?’.
The importance of a mentally healthy workplace needs to be clearly reinforced by leaders within the workplace. To show employees your commitment the following is recommended:
Once an employee has disclosed they are suffering from a mental health disorder follow these steps:
An employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s job whilst they are suffering from a mental health disorder. Reasonable adjustments may include:
Ensuring employees are aware their workplace will support those suffering from ill mental health reduces stigma in the workplace and increases the likelihood of an employee disclosing any issues to management.
Reports show that staff who feel their employer values mental health in the workplace are less likely to take sick days for ill mental health or come to work and under-perform. The correlation between a mentally aware and healthy workplace is clear when it comes to motivated, proactive and engaged employees.
Mental health disorders are prevalent in every industry in the Australian workforce so it’s important every business, big and small, is making the effort to identify, accept and accommodate employees who are suffering.
In cases of ill mental health in the workplace, employers not only have an ethical obligation to the employee but also a legal one. All obligations aside, a mentally healthy workplace means employees are more productive, efficient and committed.
By assessing and addressing your workplace culture, training employees in mental health First Aid and ensuring employees know they will be supported you can make a huge positive difference to the operation of your business. By investing in your employees’ mental health you are investing in the continuous success of your business.