Three Ways Employers Can Support Mental Health Challenges
According to SANE Australia, 45 per cent of people will be affected by mental health challenges during their working lives. This means it’s very likely that you or someone you know will be struggling now or in the future.
From an employer’s perspective, Beyond Blue calculates that every $1 invested in prevention and management returns $2.30. So mental health support is not just about being responsible, there’s a business case backing it. The question becomes: What do workers really need and how can employers help them? Employers can follow these steps:
1. Permission to have the conversation
This requires leadership. Your goal is to create a trusting environment and ‘permission’ for conversations to occur. Clearly a workplace rife with bullying behaviour, insensitivity and distrust isn’t going to be one that allows it. Ultimately it will come down to the culture that exists and whether the right foundations are in place for people to talk about the topic – although they shouldn’t feel pressured into talking about themselves. Supporting events such as RUOK? Day is a safe way to dip your toe in the water.
2. Information and tools
Mental health problems seldom exist in isolation, they are complicated. And it’s possible employees are stressed due their support or worry about friends or relatives. The next logical step is to provide resources in the form of links to information, review your employee assistance plan or convene an in-house education session. You could even ask RUOK? Day if they can send an ambassador along. There are some great tools and supports on the RUOK? Day and Beyond Blue websites, and Headspace is a youth oriented service.
3. Show you care
View it as a partnership between employer and employees and take the journey together. Creating a mentally-healthy workplace could include flexibility when it’s needed, avoiding assumptions about what’s going on for people and seeking agreement on what could or should be shared with others. Two years ago in regional NSW, I met the general manager of an agribusiness who would check in on an employee and even help them get out of bed to face the day. The employee got through their depression and has now gone onto a bigger and better things with the company in Melbourne.
Awareness is one thing, devising an action plan is the next step and I hope these steps help in making it happen.
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