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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.