Being Proactive for Good Mental Health in the Workplace.

Written by Gabrielle Condon – WHS Consultant for CC Safety (ccsafety.com.au)

Work life can be exciting, challenging, a means-to-an-end of paying for the lifestyle you and your family want, and a way for you to add value to the world through using your skills.

Sometimes life events get in the way of our enjoyment of work; issues pile up in our thoughts, and work becomes just another part of the mountain, too hard to climb, too steep, can’t breathe, can’t focus. Sometimes feeling anxious or overwhelmed, or other mental turmoil can be sparked by personal or family matters, and sometimes it can be events at work that can add to this unhelpful pressure, and soon, usually manageable stress in the workplace becomes unbearable.

Good mental health is an extremely important part of a healthy human being, and a big part of a thriving society which includes the world of business. Australian WHS laws prescribe that business owners must consult with their work group on matters that can affect their health and safety, including their physical and psychological health. Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) whether commercial, volunteer or community based, must provide a safe and healthy workplace with safe systems of work, and consult with the work group to identify hazards and manage risks as far as reasonably practicable.

Issues like bullying, violence, discrimination and aggression in the workplace are well-known to cause excessive stress, and anxiety, even depression and physical and psychological ill-health, and are the opposite of a healthy and safe workplace. These are also actions in breach of managing a safe workplace and liable to a hefty fine.

Covid 19 has presented many unparalleled problems for people’s wellbeing in that we have never encountered an event of such wide-spread effect or experienced the magnitude of the issues which arise in social distancing. It is a learning curve which we are globally navigating together. The world has changed, work has changed, even shaking hands in business, or hugging your mates or relatives has changed. Business leaders need to plan and be proactive now to ensure that the fallout of such change is managed well, just like any other change management program. Careful and mindful forethought, risk assessment, hazard control, critical thinking, reflective listening to the workers facing the issues, sharing information, mapping the way forward to help the work group assimilate to change in the workplace.

Managing mental health issues is no different to other health issues, just because you do not see the inner mechanism, it has to be accepted that it does happen even to usually stoic and steadfast people; change, fear of the unknown or loss of a sense of control can impact anyone!

First actions in ensuring mental health awareness and management in a business Work Health & Safety Management System, are being proactive and planning. Start planning for education in the workplace and create protocols for responding to issues, with simple steps such as a dedicated Mental Health Policy and Procedure outlining either the provision of an Employee Assistance Program, a company counsellor, and a list of contacts for external free counselling services such as Beyond Blue or Lifeline.

Mental health issues must, like any other health issue that arises in the workplace, be managed with strict confidentiality, without bias or discrimination, according to Privacy Laws, Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Laws.

Remember; anxiety, loneliness, sadness, depression can happen to anyone, and affects not just the person involved but family, friends, work group, and community. Reach out.

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4363 / Lifeline: 13 11 14

Author: Gabrielle Condon WHS Consultant
www.ccsafety.com.au