R U OK? Day: How can HR prepare?

HR can play a major role in creating an environment of acceptance

R U OK? Day: How can HR prepare?

What’s the leading cause of death among people 15 – 44 years?

Suicide - which in Australia is growing year on year, with a 9.1% increase from 2017 to 2018.

Mental health issues are one of a number of causes that contribute to this worrying trend, with depression present in 43% of suicides between 2017 and 2018.

Over the course of an adult’s life, they will spend up to 4,821 days at work.

This creates an opportunity for managers and HR leaders to start a dialogue with their staff, according to Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director at AccessEAP.

Employees may be struggling to cope and employers can play a role in creating an environment of acceptance and to normalise asking for help.

“Managers can ensure they are providing helpful information and the support structures which employees may need.”

Ahead of R U OK? Day on 12th September, AccessEAP, are advising workplaces to focus on mental health issues, to normalise and to have meaningful conversations to try to identify, help and avoid potential incidences of suicide.

R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to highlighting and reminding everyone to simply ask “Are you OK?”.

Indeed, it’s an important question which can offer support to people who may be dealing with overwhelming pressures and emotions.

“R U OK? Day is the starting point of communication within the workplace, however it’s imperative to consider that a long-term commitment to suicide prevention is vital and should be instilled within every workplace,” she added.

Slepica offers the following tips and ideas on how to encourage workforces to come together and participate in a conversation that may help support someone at risk of suicide.

Run an R U OK? day session
Open up the conversation amongst the team. Host a day session where staff members can be informed about the signs that someone may be at risk of suicide and the procedures to deal with it. This will help dispel the taboo around the topic.

Encourage activities where staff members are taught to open up and listen to each other, breaking down barriers. At the end of the day, gift everyone with a physical token such as a postcard, tip sheet, stress ball or pen and notebook to act as a reminder of the day going forward, and to reinforce to the individual that help is always on hand.

Challenge managers to have a conversation
Managers are in a unique place to promote positive mental health at work, and also in a position of care to their staff members. For many people, going to the boss isn’t always the desirable option as they fear it’s inappropriate or they could even lose their job.

Therefore, it’s a responsibility for managers to approach the person they may feel worried about and have a discussion on what can be done to help, including referring them to their EAP for confidential advice, if the company has one.

Explore a peer support Ambassador Program

Consider introducing a scheme where a person within your team is trained and able to have a peer-to-peer conversation with other staff members regarding their mental health issues or concerns, encouraging them to seek help when needed.

READ MORE: Are your employees doing too much overtime?

Know when to take action
If an employee makes any reference to suicide or self-harm, ask them directly “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” Unless the answer is a direct and clear “No”, immediately escalate to an appropriate person. Your options may include:

  • A Manager/HR
  • An existing support person, for example, their GP or family member
  • EAP Manager Support Hotline
  • Emergency department for assessment or the police

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