The light’s switched on! Join the mentally healthy workplaces movement
SAMHC Featured Blogger:
Mentally Healthy Workplaces Consultant
I have been working in the health and safety area for around 30 years. During this time, I have developed a strong passion in the area of psychological health in workplaces and the recognition that workplaces need to place just as much importance on mental health as physical health.
I feel that the light is now switched on and more and more workplaces want to take action to create a mentally healthy workplace.
Workplaces are at different stages when it comes to mental health – some are right at the beginning and perhaps mental health has never been spoken about in the workplace, maybe there is a high stigma associated with mental health conditions.
Others may have a strategy/action plan in place but would like confirmation they are on the right track or would like to expand what they are doing but not sure what else can be done to embed mental health in the workplace.
Often, that’s where I come in.
Through the free mentally healthy workplaces consultancy service at ReturnToWorkSA, I can come out on site and provide tailored and practical advice to help workplaces to get started or keep the momentum going.
Initially, I’ll just have a chat with the organisation, asking what – if anything – they’ve already got in place. It actually doesn’t matter where an organisation starts – getting started is the main thing. I’ll help the workplace clarify the next steps they want to take, sharing information that’s relevant to their specific situation, and help them work out how to get there.
Some common questions that workplaces ask me are: What is a mentally healthy workplace and what actions can we take to create one?
In my view, a mentally healthy workplace goes beyond legislative compliance. It’s about building a culture of care, where people believe they are supported, valued and appreciated at the workplace, and the employer really does care about them as individuals (rather than just getting a job done). It’s also about a sense of community where people feel connected to the workplace, everyone looks out for each other and there is a checking in process if you are concerned about your fellow workmates.
Most workplaces understand the importance of having a focus on workplace mental health and the benefits this brings to both the business and individual workers. However, workplaces can also be overwhelmed by the amount of information out there about mental health. The feeling might be: ‘there’s so much information, where do I start’? The good news is that there are some simple steps that can be taken and great resources to help workplaces.
To get started I encourage workplaces to:
- Have a look at what free tools and resources are available including visiting rtwsa.com (search “mentally healthy”) or www.headsup.org.au, with the latter having a specific section for small business. The SA Mental Health Commission website also has a great “go to guide”.
- Make sure critical success factors are in place including leadership having a shared commitment to a mentally healthy workplace and workers having the opportunity to contribute their ideas and be involved in any mental health initiatives.
Getting started and taking action can be as simple as: raising awareness about mental health and reducing stigma by making mental health information available, being involved in mental health events such as RUOK Day and Mental Health Week, and promoting support services such as your Employee Assistance Program (if you have one) or other free support services such as the beyondblue Support Service.
Focussing on a supportive workplace by providing managers, supervisors and workers with training/information on how to approach someone they are concerned about, have a conversation and provide ongoing support. This could include having trained Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace.
Review the workplace to identify risk factors to mental health and take action to reduce these risks. For example, managing workloads, preventing bullying and discrimination and managing workplace change.
Ensure you have effective return to work processes in place to assist workers with a mental health condition to remain at, or return to work, in a supportive and positive manner.
I also encourage workplaces to think about how mental health can be embedded within the organisation so it becomes part of the day to day mindset – rather than something you do just once a year during RUOK Day. Let’s make RUOK Day every day in the workplace. For example, how does a mentally healthy workplace link with your existing organisational values; how can you embed workplace mental health into induction processes, team meetings or an agenda item at WHS committee meetings?
If this sounds like a lot to do, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to address everything at once. The most important thing is to start, no matter how small and build from there.
If you feel like you need more help on how to start or what to do, you can access my free support and assistance through ReturnToWorkSA’s mentally healthy workplaces consultancy service.
Click here for Mardi Webber’s Mentally Healthy Workplaces webinar
By Mardi Webber
Mentally Healthy Workplaces Consultant
Mardi Webber began her career in the hospital sector as a Registered Nurse and Midwife. From the clinical perspective of health care, she developed an interest in the prevention of injury and disease, and has worked in the health and safety field for almost 30 years. Her passion is in the area of mental health, and now as a Registered Psychologist, Mardi’s current role at ReturnToWorkSA is called Mentally Healthy Workplaces Consultant. In this role, Mardi provides free assistance and support to workplaces and industries in South Australia in the area of workplace mental health, in particular in the goal of creating and maintaining mentally healthy workplaces.
SAMHC Featured Bloggers
The SAMHC presents our series of guest featured bloggers who generously share their personal thoughts and experiences of mental health and wellbeing.