Four signs your workplace doesn’t take mental health seriously

‘GP surgeries up and down the country are full of people asking for help with their mental health’

Four signs your workplace doesn’t take mental health seriously

This year, an overwhelming number of Australian employees have been calling on their employers to address mental health in the workplace.

The Allianz Future Thriving Workplaces report shows that workers compensation claim costs relating to mental health – or primary psychological workers compensation claims – have increased by 80%, rising an average of 22% year-on-year since 2017.

The data found that one in two managers say they now feel an increased responsibility for their employees’ mental health at work, and almost one half of them (47%) think there’s a stronger need for mental health initiatives in their industry.

According to the Black Dog Institute, the key to addressing mental health in the workplace is putting effort into implementing proven programs to support their colleagues, instead of simply holding coffee mornings to raise awareness.

In an advisory White Paper released by the medical research institute, it claims more needs to be done for those who have recognised they need mental health support, rather than simply talking about mental health and urging everyone to seek help.

“Australia does not need any more mental health awareness campaigns because we do not have a mental health awareness problem,” said Sam Harvey, chief psychiatrist at the Black Dog Institute.

Read more: Burnout: Employees say HR ‘not doing enough to help’

“GP surgeries up and down the country are full of people asking for help with their mental health.”

According to the Black Dog Institute, there are four key signs that your workplace is not taking mental health seriously:

  1. You have morning teas on awareness days

Morning teas are social - they fool us into thinking that workplaces are ’doing their bit’. But do they really have your back when it comes to mental health? New research shows that Australia does not have an awareness problem, and that it’s time to move on from these campaigns. Workplaces need to use the momentum generated by morning teas and channel this into something constructive.

  1. They don’t offer flexible work arrangements

We’ve been hearing about work-life balance for over a decade, and for good reason. Offering flexibility is a sure way for workplaces to look after their employees and this has never been more significant in a remote working COVID environment.  

  1. You feel guilty taking a mental health day

Mental health is just as much a reason to take personal leave as a physical illness. Research shows that mentally healthy workers are more productive and less likely to take sick leave, so it’s actually a win-win for both employee and employer. If you struggle to ask for, or are denied, a mental health day, something needs to change.

  1. There is no practical training offered

It’s 2020 and mental health is now part of Australia’s national agenda. This means workplaces need to implement mental health training for you and your colleagues and put support systems in place. This will be particularly necessary in a covid-normal or post-pandemic world. There are training sessions and downloadable toolkits available through the Black Dog Institute.

HRD also spoke to Sabina Read, psychologist, speaker and facilitator, who said a lot of managers feel that they don’t know how to have a conversation about mental health.

Read more: Why HR should encourage employees to sleep more

“For many managers, they don’t know where to start and don’t want to make the situation worse. They think they are really busy and don’t want to stress themselves,” Read told HRD.

“if you are concerned about someone’s mental health, talking to them about it just involves a simple sentence: ‘I’ve noticed you have been more or less (followed by the behaviour).”

Read said that following that approach ensures you are not assuming or diagnosing, you are just observing a behavioural change.

“And then you say, ‘are you ok?’. So, I might say to you ‘I have noticed that you have been late logging on to meetings and I am just wondering if you are OK’.”

“So, when we start a conversation like that it makes it easier for the recipient to feel like they are not being judged. You are just stating something you have observed. I think that is a really good starting point for a conversation about mental health.”

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