event recap - national road show 2018

The 2018 National Road Show hosted Lucy Brogden, the Chair and Commissioner of the National Mental Health Commission, as our keynote speaker. As we visited each of the capital cities around Australia, Lucy shared some important messages with the almost 1,000 attendees. She spoke about mental health in the workplace and gave us all a timely reminder to bring this issue to the forefront before there are serious consequences.

Lucy began her presentation with a quote from Freud, (“what sort of psychologist would I be if I didn’t start with Freud”) – ‘Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanity’. And given that the average person will spend at least a third of their life at work, it is key that we take mental health in the workplace seriously.

Although there are far more important reasons to look at whether your workplace is mentally healthy, for those that need them, the stats are as follows:

  • Currently one million Australians are living with depression and two million Australians are living with anxiety
  • One in five of those people suffering from depression are women and one in eight of those are men
  • One in three of those people suffering from anxiety are women and one in five are men
  • Eight Australians die every day by suicide – five of these are men

And these are just the reported cases.

It is important to remember that behind all of these statistics are people. The instances of mental health in our society are at an extremely high level and organisations have a responsibility to make their workplaces a mentally safe space. Even more so, because working is such an important part of the recovery journey – “good work is good for you”.

The National Mental Health Commission believes that people should be thriving, not just surviving. To do this, people need access to:

  • Proper and effective care, support and treatment
  • Something meaningful to do and something to look forward to
  • A connection with their friends, family, culture and community
  • An environment that enables them to feel safe, stable and secure

All of these are impacted by the Social Determinants of Health which can be found in Lucy’s presentation here. These determinants underpin all of the work that the National Mental Health Commission do and show the factors that influence a mentally healthy society.

Research conducted by SuperFriend, shows that there are a number of factors that prevent people from saying that they are struggling with mental health in their workplace. These include beliefs that:

  • Employers still have a lack of understanding around mental health and wellbeing issues
  • Managers lack the skills and training to address mental health and wellbeing issues
  • Employers don’t have enough time and everyone is too busy to listen to their concerns
  • There is more of a focus on physical health and OHS issues rather than mental health
  • A stigma still exists which is preventing employers from taking actions that promote mental health and wellbeing
  • A culture of compliance prevents employers from taking action because they only do what they have to do

For a workplace to be mentally healthy, these factors must be overcome and more importantly, it must be clear to staff that these factors do not exist.

Many organisations believe they are tackling mental health issues with initiatives such as weekly yoga classes, fruit boxes for staff, engagement surveys and a values statement. Although these are nice to have, they aren’t enough to have a material impact on the psychological safety of staff. An organisation must take it further to be able to provide the required support.

Fortunately, there are things that employers can do to create a mentally healthy environment:

  • Job and work design: jobs need to be designed in a way that allows people to create balance in their lives and success in their work, Lucy’s advice, “start with a workload that actually allows them to get eight hours of sleep each night”
  • Promoting and facilitating early help seeking and early intervention
  • Building a positive and safe work culture
  • Enhancing personal and organisational resilience
  • Supporting the recovery of people who are suffering from mental ill-health
  • Increasing the awareness of mental health and reducing the stigma attached to it

These factors above will not only help people from developing a mental illness but will also help to create a safe environment for people who are struggling, to be able to talk about it.

For an organisation to make the changes that are highlighted above successfully, they must bring all the staff along on the whole journey, not just bring them in at the end. The people in the organisation are what makes something a success and are the ones who can create that safe environment, reduce that stigma and be there for their colleagues who may be seeking help.

One of the key issues that was raised at each of the events was what do you do when someone does tell you that they are struggling. Lucy’s advice was to listen and to be there for them. She made it clear that you don’t have to be a professional psychologist to make a difference, you just have to be a human being.

If you notice someone struggling, it is best to make the conversation about yourself, not about them. Lucy provided some very key sentence starters that she has picked up through her years of experience: “I notice…, I imagine…, I feel…”. For example, I notice that you have been showing up to work late recently and that you don’t seem to be enjoying your work as much. I imagine that something might be going on which is making it harder for you. I feel unsure of how I can help you but I would like to. By approaching the conversation in this way, the focus is on you and there is less pressure on them.

Finally, remember to treat people with kindness as you never know what they might be going through.

There are plenty of resources available for either you personally, if reading the above has stirred anything up, for you to recommend if someone does disclose that they are struggling to you or for organisations to use to implement change:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14 for crisis support and suicide prevention
  • The Heads Up initiative developed by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance which provides plenty of resources to help create a mentally healthy workplace
  • SuperFriend who can provide advice for organisations on how to create a positive, healthy and safe working environment where every employee can be well and thrive
  • The Centre for Transformative Work Design which provides advice on how to create roles that people can be mentally healthy in

We would like to sincerely thank Lucy for her time and for sharing this important message with us and all our guests around Australia.

We would also like to thank our sponsor, Industry Super Holdings and the organisations it is comprised of – Industry Fund Services, IFM Investors, Industry Super Australia and The New Daily – for their ongoing support of our National Road Show.

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