Developing a plan and taking action on workplace mental health

Mark Leopold:                 

                        

Thank you to everyone for joining beyondblue’s third webinar on workplace mental health. It's fantastic the level of registrations that we've had for this webinar, and hopefully over the course of the next hour or so we’ll be able to give some really practical tips for individuals and organisations to take back to your workplace to improve the mental health of our respective workplaces. From the outset, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we're meeting on today and holding this webinar from, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I'd like to pay respects to their elders, both past and present, and also pay respects to any elders that might be dialling in and tuning in from other communities today, so thank you. Again, once again, moving into lunchtime in some geographies, I really appreciate the fact that you're going to spend an hour with us and hopefully learn some really practical actions.

The course of this webinar I guess will take us through a whole range of resources, and the resources around Heads Up, headsup.org.au. Before I move on, I did want to acknowledge the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. The logos that you see on your screen there are a range of organisations that support Heads Up, and wonderful organisations, SuperFriend, Black Dog, a whole range of business bodies, federal and state governed bodies who get together to support what are fantastic evidence-based resources, but moving on.

If we have a look what we're going to cover over the course of the next hour, I guess where I want to go with that is to say that we've had two webinars to date. One was around the business case, and the other is around I guess the basis of how we go about workplace mental health. I'm certainly not going to revisit those, but I do want to touch on them because I think that if people want the detail there, they can certainly go to the Heads Up website — again, headsup.org.au — and look at our historical webinars, but again, from the point of view of setting the context for today, I think it's important that we, I guess, set that context on the prior webinars.

I'll also talk about what is mental health and the context around a mentally healthy workplace, and then I'll really dive into I guess the detail that we want, which is around how we go about developing a plan and an integrated approach. Within that integrated approach seven key goals that can guide our actions, and then how we implement those actions, and certainly towards the end of the webinar, more than happy to take questions throughout ... or sorry, at the end of the webinar, and we'll be monitoring those questions throughout, so please feel free to ask them as we move forward. If we just go to the, I guess, the first part of the webinar, is to talk about what we did in webinar one. Essentially that was around the business case around workplace mental health.

If we really go back to, I guess, the fundamentals, we need to understand that we have a societal issue. Three million Australians are managing anxiety and/or depression at any one time. Certainly a more stark statistic is that nearly eight people take their own lives every day in Australia, and for every eight people that take their own lives there are 30 attempts, so we have a huge societal issue that we can all try and assist and help. When we bring that into the workplace context, it's really important that we understand that workplace mental health is something that yes, we can support people that are maybe managing a mental health condition, but actually there are significant business benefits to us all around appropriately and effectively taking action in the workplace.

There's many different reports, and if we think about the PwC report of 2014, we know that there's a significant cost to Australian business, but perhaps in a more positive light that we also know that there's an average return of $2.30 for every dollar invested in effective mental health programs within organisations. Again, we've covered this, so we won't go into the detail there, but perhaps more, I guess, non-financially, I think it's important that we look at how workplace mental health can absolutely create organisations where we're attracting good people, where we're keeping good people, and we're making, I guess, an environment where people are far more productive.

I guess I'm speaking to you today as someone who doesn't come from a clinical or psychological background. My background is in the commercial environment, and therefore I guess I think about my time in that commercial environment and some of those activities at an executive level. We're always interested in workplace engagement. To me that's the hook, and we all have different hooks, but it is around creating those environments where our employees are more engaged and more productive. We touched on that in the first webinar, and that gives us that overview.

Then in the second webinar we talked about some broad aspects of how we develop a mental health strategy, and really that set the foundation for this webinar. What we talked about in the last webinar was I guess the basics around the three critical success factors that we know organisations apply when they're developing effective mental health strategies, and that is we need leadership commitment. We need commitment from the top. As much as we would have that commitment on any major program that organisations run throughout any workplace, we know the leadership commitment drives so much of the activity.

We also know that it's not a top down approach. We need to engage our employees in the conversation, and have our employees participate in that conversation and inform our actions moving forward. When we think about that last slide where we talked about the societal issues, we know that many of us, either directly or indirectly through our own experience or supporting people with a mental health condition, will have both perhaps a passion but also an understanding of mental health, and we want to, I guess, tie into that. We want to tap into that, is perhaps a better way of saying it, and involve our employees in the discussion.

Then finally, we want to talk about the ongoing communication. This isn't a point in time. Developing a mental health strategy and indeed the actions that sit behind it are not at a point in time where we press a button and mental health in our organisation is fixed. Indeed, it's more how we manage other programs, and again, perhaps if we think about broader work and health safety programs, it's in the DNA of the way we run our businesses. It's in the DNA of the meetings that we have from day-to-day and in every given day, so please think about workplace mental health as an ongoing part of the way we run our businesses.

So those critical success factors then, I guess, move into the four key steps that we know we need to take to develop effective plans and strategies. That is, okay, if we need leadership commitment, then we absolutely need leadership support. We absolutely need to understand the gaps and assess our needs. Every organisation will have a slightly different need in relation to mental health and managing mental health, and so without that needs assessment we can't really develop the plans that effectively address our specific organisational needs. Of course, we want to develop a plan and then monitor and review that plan.

Really, the focus of this next hour is around step three there, developing a plan. We're going to drive into far more detail around that so that we can get some of those really practical actions that we can take back to our workplaces. As we move forward into that, that I hope gives you that understanding of what we covered in webinar one and two, and please understand that if you want the detail, those webinars are on the Heads Up website. But before we dive into the detail of developing a plan, I did want to just touch on two key aspects of mental health and a mentally healthy workplace, and that is let's get some understanding of what is mental health.

I have a World Health Organisation definition here, and it talks about that state of wellbeing and here it's not just about work. Obviously it's about a contributing life in all aspects of our lives at home and at work, and we cope with the normal stresses of life and we contribute to our communities in many, many ways. I think that perhaps I find it a little easier to think about mental health in the context of this continuum, and that we should understand that mental health is not a static state.

Often I think that, again I'll take a sort of personal reflection, but when we talked about mental health we often think about mental health conditions, or the red end of the continuum, and actually no, we need to understand that mental health is about life. It is about those times when we're positive, healthy, functioning situations, and of course then life and work throws things at us, and we move into the amber and we might start to struggle at different times. The important aspect of understanding mental health is to understand that continuum, and both in ourselves and in indeed our colleagues to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of when we might be moving into the amber and the orange. And before we move into a clinical condition we actually reach out for professional help. We reach out to our doctors and our psychologists and our colleagues and evidence-based materials like on the Heads Up website and many other fine organisations, and bring ourselves back into that positive and functioning state.

I guess the other take out from this is that, again, it is critical that we think about supporting those individuals with a mental health condition within our organisations, and we know through research that it is likely that one in five people at any given time might be managing a mental health condition. But also it's about keeping the healthy healthy and it's about looking at everyone in our workplaces. Understanding this continuum helps us understand that when we're developing mentally healthy workplace strategies and programs, we're speaking to everyone in our organisation. I hope that that brief understanding around mental health, helps put that in context.

Then of course, we start to think about what is a mentally healthy workplace, and again there is no one definition and it is different from all, but I particularly like this definition from Guarding Minds at Work. What I like about this definition is that concept right at the end of that paragraph there, that we go home with energy leftover at the end of the day. I know that in many roles that I've had historically, I've lucky to have been at beyondblue for two and a half years, but historically I've held many roles where I've gone home over long periods with no energy left at the end of the day. Indeed, the batteries are sapped and I'm going to home to recover in many ways.

I think that whilst we can acknowledge that that might happen from time to time, I think workplaces go up and down in terms of the level of work that we confront, what we also need to understand is that work can be a fantastic and positive impact on us all, and that actually if we're thinking about employees going home with energy leftover and being better for having been at work, then I think we can find that this definition again can guide our thinking as we move into developing our plans, which I guess gives us the segue into the detail around today, and that is around developing our plans.

We think that it's really important that when we look at a plan, we look at it as an integrated approach, and we've borrowed this, not borrowed, adapted it from Tony Lamontagne, but before we get to that particular detail, if I can just ask. You'll see that I'm interested in your understanding, for those that are online, of where you're at with your understanding of developing a plan and taking action. So, if you can just spend a few seconds letting me know where you're at with your current understanding of this topic, it will help me shape the nature of the discussion moving forward, and thank you, I can see a whole range of responses coming through, and pleasingly around 20% are coming in at good, most at fair, and some at poor.

I think that is excellent because what we've got on the line is a fairly broad foundation of people's experience, and for those that have a good understanding, I hope that you're going to find over the next period some actions and tools and tips and resources that can increase that understanding. For those that are at the start of their journey, then I think you'll find some really, really exciting opportunities to learn from the next half an hour or so as we move forward. Thank you, Bianca, if you can close that.

Then we go into what it means to develop a mental health strategy. Again, this was covered the last webinar, but to go over those four steps again, it should be no rocket science here, in that it's around gaining that leadership support and identifying the needs, developing a plan, monitoring, reviewing, and moving on. I guess where I wanted to focus today is on that idea around creating a plan. When we're creating our plans, again much of this I hope isn't you, because really what we're saying is that there are steps that we can take in any program within our organisations that are just logical, prudent steps to developing and creating plans and taking action.

So set those clear goals, those clear goals that are realistic and achievable, and have those smart objectives behind it that mean that we're not setting goals that are perhaps out of reach, and through the prior steps in the process, we understand our needs and we've set and identified priority areas. I guess the take out here, though, is that we think that when you're developing your plan, it will help to think about that plan in three particular areas; the idea of protection, promotion, and support, and I'll go into that in a little bit of detail over the next few slides. Why we say that is because whilst there's no one right way and no one right plan for all organisations, we do know that, as I said earlier, it is critical to support those people with a mental health condition.

But it's also really key to promote the positives of work and play to people's strengths, and promote the positives of mental health and good mental health, but also to understand the risks and the protective factors that we can put in place at work too, so we'll dive into that a little bit more. As we move forward, you'll see that what we've done here is adapted the work of Tony Lamontagne and others around an integrated approach to mental health. Again, we're going to talk to that in the context of promotion, support, and protection, and we are going to cover those seven goals that you'll see listed under promotion, promote positive mental health. Under ‘Support’, support employees with a mental health condition, across ‘Helping prevent suicide’, ‘Combat stigma’, and in ‘Protection’, ‘Foster anti-bullying’ and ‘Address the risks and protective factors’.

Right at the centre there you see ‘Improve understanding’ because we know how fundamental that is, and why is it fundamental… It is largely about understanding that the more we understand about mental health, the more we're likely to not fear it both at an individual level and at an organisational level, and that we actually will be able to realise that we can take really effective actions, again, at an organisational and an individual level, so improving our understanding of mental health and workplace mental health is central to the idea of an integrated approach.

As I move forward, please understand that, as I've noted, there is no one right way, and also so that people don't feel overwhelmed by the next few slides, I would also say that it's not necessary for you to from the get go take a holistic integrated approach that deals with every of those seven goals from the start. In fact, starting small can be an excellent way to go, and we'll talk about that, so whilst you're about to receive quite a lot of information, please understand that it's not about attempting to drive that information out or drive those plans in that manner from the get go. It's more to provide you guidance of what you can consider for your organisations, and hopefully that helps you in terms of the individual needs of your organisations.

So, when we talk about, before going into the seven goals, the three areas, what do we mean by protect… What we're saying here is that we're building a positive culture that is modelled by strong and effective leaders, that's it's our leaders from the very top that are actually so influential in helping mould the culture of our organisations. We're also looking at understanding the risks within our business and then modifying the particular elements associated with risk to ensure that we (a) acknowledge them, (b) are managing the risks, and (c) putting in protective actions to mitigate those risks. Again, a lot of this, you'll see, is as applicable it is to mental health as to other elements of work health safety and indeed other elements of risk management across your organisations.

We're talking about improving role clarity and really understanding that people understand their roles. Of course, providing adequate resources and training to perform the positions that we all hold within our organisations, and again you start to see here why that sort of leadership commitment is so important, because without that leadership commitment we're perhaps not in a position to be able to provide the adequate resources and the training to perform our roles. Certainly, around encouraging meaningful connections and recognising and awarding appropriately, and developing that supportive environment. That is, providing timely feedback.

So, while we talk about workplace mental health, again, we think it helps us all to think about it in those three areas, and so as we're thinking about ‘Protection’, think about it in the context of those high level areas of guidance, and we'll certainly be giving you more detail guidance as we move forward in these next few slides. When we talk about ‘Promote’, we're certainly trying to say that it really does help us all to emphasise the meaningful aspects of good work, celebrating our achievements and praising the efforts. Often, so often, and I think again I reflect personally, that we're often trying to improve always around continuous improvement and improve our own work, our own performance, but do we actually stop to recognise the achievements and look back at what we have achieved and praise those that are doing a really, really fine job.

And also emphasising that actually yes, work can be a stressor and can cause anxiety, but at the same time it could be fantastic in terms of providing meaningful, excellent engagement, and again think about those aspects of promoting the positives of work when we're thinking about the totality of an integrated approach. Focussing on manager training and developing that positive proactive leadership is again vital. Often we again think about leaders as, it all comes naturally to all of us that manage teams, but actually we absolutely need to focus on training for our managers and our leaders, not just training around leadership, but training around understanding and awareness around mental health, and how we can inculcate that into the way that we manage our teams.

Educating our staff more broadly and also bringing those connections between the physical and mental health, and promoting healthy eating, physical activity, non-smoking, alcohol and substance control, etc. etc., so that we understand that at a level, yes, mental health is something that we need to think about in and of itself, but we actually also need to think about it more holistically around our physical and mental health in a more broad manner. And also thinking about promoting that idea around focusing on our strengths. Again, we're all from time to time stretched in our roles and we test the boundaries of our roles, and we move into areas that are uncomfortable and this is normal. This is about a personal growth, but it's also, I think, acknowledging that we should be playing to people's individual strengths and putting them in roles that are absolutely appropriate for their particular strengths, and giving that really strong and supportive workplace that are playing to people's strengths.

Then of course, if we move into that third area of that integrated approach, it's around the support that we are providing anyone that may be managing a mental health condition, and that is around increasing our understanding collectively, both at the individual level, at the leadership level, and at the organisational level more generally around understanding mental health, understanding mental health literacy, and running out programs that help to increase the understanding of staff. It is often said that we know when someone breaks a leg or has a physical injury, and mental health is perhaps harder to identify when someone's doing it tough and there is an element to that, absolutely.

In fact, again from a personal perspective, it's quite easy to put a mask on when you're actually doing it rough. But in truth, there are signs and symptoms that we can all be aware of that we can understand in ourselves and in our colleagues when someone might be struggling, and how we can help and intervene to assist the conversation to either guide people or ourselves to help, again, to professional help, where we're seeing a doctor, where we're seeing a psychologist, where we're accessing evidence-based resources, because I think we're all too easy to say we go to the doctor when we've got a broken leg, because that's what we do, but we don't do that when we're doing it tough mentally. Yet, actually we should be, and it's very, very important that we all better understand the signs and symptoms so that we can help ourselves and others.

Really important, and something that I've learned at beyondblue, actually, is that environment where people feel comfortable to disclose how they're feeling, and again, historically, that that's been tough. Some environments, you just don't feel comfortable laying it out to discuss. Now, we're not saying and I'm not saying that in all organisations and in all environments that people should openly discuss how they're feeling. Of course it needs to be appropriate to the environment, but if we as managers and leaders, if we as people within teams and organisations are creating an environment where there's permission to talk, we're more likely to have people understand that they can openly talk about disclosing if they're struggling, and why is that important… It's important because it's more likely then that people will actually reach out and gain the help they need to bring them back into the green.

We also need to acknowledge that when we're supporting people we can make reasonable adjustments for staff, as we do with physical health and safety, and really importantly, enable them to stay or attend to work, and of course ensure that there are support services available and that they could be promoted really quite openly within the organisation so that people can and know how to access, whether it be the EAP, a mental health care plan, peer support, whatever the supports that might be available within organisations. It's part of the way there to make sure those supports are there. It's far stronger to ensure that people are openly aware and encouraged to use the supports that are available.

So, what I've tried to do there is to delve in a little bit more detail within the last webinar around those three elements of protect, promote, and support that we would say provide the foundation of an effective integrated approach. But if we then dive even further into the detail and hopefully provide a sense of even more practical tips, let's think about the seven goals that might underpin our planning, and if those seven goals are, again, in the context of the integrated approach listed here for these. That is that we are looking at improving understanding, addressing risks, fostering that anti-bullying culture, promote the positives of mental health, and supporting employees, combating stigma, and helping prevent suicide.

My intent now is to go into some of the, again, practical actions that we can take as individuals and organisations to address those key goals. I do want to reinforce again, please don't be overwhelmed by the idea that if you're in a position where you're creating these plans or as a leader who is supporting teams to build plans or as a leader who is supporting teams to build and create plans, it is not about doing all the these at one time. More what we're trying to provide is that guidance to say, "If you're thinking about this and in this structured way, you're more likely to be able to develop over time a longer term sustainable approach to mental health within your organisation.".

One point that comes to mind there, before I move into each of those goals, and that goes down to this idea around whether your plans and strategies should be integrated into other plans and strategies within your organisation, for example, into broader work health safety and wellbeing plans. I think the answer to that is that at an ideal level, of course, I think we're going to have a sense that if we can integrate mental health into the way we manage general health and wellbeing across our organisations, then that is absolutely an appropriate way to go because it's less likely that you'll be duplicating processes, systems, time, effort.

Having said that, for some organisations it's quite feasible that it's the right thing to do at the start, maybe to take it out and treat it as a separate program as you start to understand the need to gain leadership commitment, analyse the needs and create those initial plans, so again no one right way. I think ideally we're looking at integrating it, but if it works for your organisations to start small and start separate, that's fine too. So let's have a look at each of these, and hopefully provide some real understanding of some of the practical things we can do.

If we think about improving understanding, where we can go here is to really provide that information around the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. Where do you get that information, and in fact, on many of these, where do we provide that… Please again understand that this isn't about starting from scratch. There is so much information available to organisations. Again, I'll direct you to the Heads Up website, headsup.org.au, and there is a lot of information on that website and other organisational websites that will provide you the information around the signs and symptoms to, I guess, promote and discuss within your organisations.

We talked about that it's about ongoing, so regularly providing information around support services that are available, EAPs, the external organisations, beyondblue, Lifeline, Black Dog, whoever it might be so that people see (a) that there's resources to draw upon, and that there's services that at an individual or organisational level they can access, and it keeps the discussion at a front of mind level. Again, it's about ongoing communication, so providing that information on a regular basis becomes key. Of course, I think there's an element too where we use those, what I might call the anchor days. You know, the organisation's R U OK? that have phenomenal days around R U OK? Day, mental health week, health and safety week, health safety month in some states. Use those anchor days absolutely as a point to say, "You know what? There's broad public awareness on these days. Let's do something within the workplace.".

It might be a brown bag. It might be a speaker. It might be something that you bring into the organisation. It might be just simply promoting the good work that you're doing within mental health within your organisations, but use those days. I guess I'd add to that slide, though, to say that in using those days, let's not treat them as the only days available. Go back to the point about, and that is to say, "Yep, great to use the anchor days as a point to really raise that awareness in a major way" but also to keep that communication ongoing through the normal business as usual processes that you might run through your organisations.

Then of course, as we would for other organisational programs, develop a plan, a communications plans for spreading the word around your strategy, and of course that can be internal, but again, at the right time, it can be external as well and you can be a leader and encouraging other organisations to take action as well, so improving that understanding is a great place to start. It's not the only place to start, and these goals, one through to seven, aren't meant to say, "Start here and progress through." but it is an important place to ensure that we all have a good awareness and understanding of mental health across our organisations.

If we then think about addressing our risks and protective factors that we can put in place, this is where I guess the rubber hits the road in many ways. This starts to talk around, some of this isn’t easy for me and others to talk around doing this, but actually some of this can get quite difficult to implement, again why we need the leadership support, why we need the ongoing communication, why we need employee participation, because we need to consider those staff that might be at greater risk of experiencing stress and mental health conditions. And we need to ensure that we're appropriately understanding the risks associated with them, they're addressing the risks, and maybe then putting protective factors in place to address those risks accordingly.

I heard an interesting aspect the other day where often we will say, or I will say when I'm presenting, that because we spend so many hours at work, which can be a good thing and can be in certain times, if that's happening too often, too long, a particular risk factor, but we can often see the changes in our colleagues. If we understand the signs and symptoms, we see those changes and we can either intervene or at least ask how people are travelling and guide them to help accordingly or ourselves. A point was made to me recently that “Well, actually I'm in an environment where the teams change a lot, it's a consulting environment, and every few months, depending on the need, the team changes. So Mark, in some cases I can't see the changes in my colleagues because they're new to me and I'm not quite sure what their normal behaviours are.".

I found that really interesting to note that that organisation had understood that risk and actually applied a way of mitigating the risk by at the start of each project actually introducing the team, but also introducing the supports that are available, the expectation around raising awareness and discussing how we're feeling, the fact that the project is going to spike in workloads and here's the supports that are available should that occur, and really at the start of each project inculcating the fact that we have in our organisations protective factors in place to address risks. I just bring that up because it was an interesting insight that I gained from an organisation where I hadn't actually understood that particular risk and I thought that was in part well managed.

We also need to establish a process to monitor risks and consult with our staff on solutions. Again, this is much like we would do with any other work health safety program and risk management process within large organisations. I should point out, as I say large organisations, that I'm cognizant that on this call there will be many people that are part of small to medium enterprises or even smaller micro-businesses. On that case, please be aware that at headsup.org.au there is an array of and growing information around how we manage the mental health within small businesses, so again I guess I would say to those people who are on this particular webinar to understand that, again, for small businesses some of this might feel overwhelming. We have consulted broadly with a small business and continue to, to say, actually, if you go to the specific aspects of the small business resources, you'll see some really valuable information there for you too.

Of course, I think we can review the range of risk factors affecting staff and mental health, and we get to some real, as I said before, where the rubber hits the road. This is about, job design, role clarity. It really is around understanding what it is that we're trying to achieve and whether individuals actually understand what it is what that their role brings to the organisation, how it aligns to the organisational strategy, how it aligns to the outcomes of a team or a project. Has the job been designed in such a way that it is indeed manageable, and do we understand the conflicts that might be occurring across roles. Are we thinking and factoring in the risk factors associated with shift work around those that might deal with the, if you like, occupational health and safety around customer abuse and violence, for example. Do we understand how we're managing the remote aspects of fly in and fly out of mining workers. All these operational factors go into really core parts of how we're reviewing the risks and protective factors in a way that really encompasses a strong foundation for us to improve the mental health of our workplaces.

And of course, the crossover factors around understanding the environmental factors, understanding what's happening in any given workplace, and how these can both have a physical and a mental aspect to them, how we're managing them, how we're dealing with them. And those other individual factors that talk about, some people might say, a work/life balance, but understanding that we don't leave ourselves at the door when we enter work. You know, we are a whole person. We are managing the issues at home and in other aspects of our lives, and that we need to factor that in and have open conversations around that as we're working around bringing our whole selves to the workplace and really engaging with our employees. And having those open conversations around some of those stressors that are happening so we can help people, as I said on the previous slide, maybe think about how we can effectively mitigate the risks and help them with various plans to stay at work. So addressing those risks and protective factors, complex, in some cases hard, but core to what we're talking about when we're driving a mentally healthy workplace and putting plans in place to do so.

This one I think is one that is core. I mean, fostering an anti-bullying culture, another way of saying it is zero tolerance to heavy bullying and discrimination. I think that we need to absolutely just take a pretty clear stance on this. We know the direct links that this has to anxiety and depression. It is something that we can stamp out with the right processes. It is sometimes difficult, sure. We want to make sure that we create that environment where people are happy to call out issues of bullying and discrimination. But if our culture is not there yet, that we're implementing confidential support lines or confidential reporting so that in any way, shape, or form we are watching out for those people at a greatest risk, and that we are putting in policies and processes in our organisations to make it absolutely clear that bullying and discrimination won't be dealt with within or will be dealt with and within our cultures. Pretty core there, and again I think I would encourage us all to think about what we can do in terms of bullying and discrimination to help stamp that out.

In terms of promoting positive mental health, again I think if we think about this in the context of that continuum that I was talking about, it is really too important that yes, we're supporting people with mental health conditions, that we're addressing our risks and protective factors, but we're also promoting the positives of mental health, that actually being in a green and flourishing environment and at the individual level is a really positive way to be. And that when we're talking about mental health, we should be talking about that whole continuum. So let's focus on developing that sort of positive, proactive leadership within our managers and leaders and play and promote the employee strengths that we have, and provide that constructive timely feedback, but also recognising the great work that all of the individuals are doing.

You know, sometimes it's almost like we in organisations employ people and we kind of expect them to do their job, and if they're just doing their job, well, great, but we don't actually say "Hey, you're doing a great job.". That's the expectation, whereas the value in actually recognising the fact that they're doing a great job is powerful on so many levels. And of course, if they then are going above and beyond and doing a brilliant job, well, again recognising that. But let's absolutely work collectively to recognise what we're doing and play to people's strengths. Encouraging that collaboration and trying to remove the silos within our workplaces is again something where we're all openly learning from each other. Again, it's an easier one to say than to do.

In many cases, having been at many organisations, and depending on the structures, we can have functional silos, we can have business unit silos, and then we change your organisations and structure to encourage collaboration, but somehow we can end up in silos again. I guess I think what I'd go there is to say that actually the fact is that we're all better for the diversity of thought within our organisations, and so whatever we can do to drive collaboration between staff is going to be a positive impact on the broader mental health and culture of our organisations. And of course putting in place those feedback mechanisms so that we have regular communication between our staff and our managers. Again, is there a right cadence in timing on this. For some organisations it might be weekly, for others it might be even more regular. Other organisations perhaps formally it's not as a regular. I think that I'd make a general observation, and this is again more a personal observation, that those organisations that are doing it more regularly are finding great benefit in that because then there's no surprise. There's just people either getting that regular positive feedback or indeed saying "Hey, perhaps we can look at how we can improve our approach there in the future.". So whatever the case is, regular and timely two-way feedback becomes pretty key. But also I guess there's a shared responsibility aspect here and identifying that we can do a lot as organisations to promote positive workplaces and mentally healthy workplaces.

But also at the individual level, at the individual level it's about understanding again that continuum that I spoke about, but understanding in ourselves how we can look after our own mental health. Again to draw on something that I have sort of a personal mental health plan that I sort of run to, and therefore if I start to understand that I'm either starting to not exercise or not go out or some of the things that I know are good for me personally, I can actually ensure that I do some of the things that I know help me to move me back into the green. So I think that there's a definite aspect here too about promoting that positive mental health, but also promoting that self-care that we can all take as well.

 And of course providing opportunities in our workplaces to promote both positive mental and physical health, so again as we discussed earlier, you can see that some of this crosses over, but having that environment, that it's not all just about mental health in isolation. It is around physical health and it is around what we eat, and broader aspects of health and wellbeing that come into play. Key point, again, as a broader approach to looking at workplace mental health, promoting positive mental health becomes a key platform to a holistic approach and a more sustainable approach to the way that you might manage it within your organisations.

We talked about raising awareness. We also talk about combating stigma, and I think that at a level raising awareness and combating stigma are two very key aspects of addressing mental health more broadly. Why is it that we're combating stigma... It is essentially again, as we increase awareness and as people don't fear the stigma that might be attached with having a discussion historically, we can get people, ourselves or others that we're trying to assist, to reach out for help, and so how might we combat stigma within an organisation where we might be inviting people with personal experience of mental health conditions to tell their stories.

Again, sometimes this occurs and some organisations will have people that have their own experience managing mental health within their organisations, and with a caveat that if they're ready to talk about it and they're getting the right support, that this can be a great option, but also, organisations like beyondblue has a Speakers Bureau where people can request people with personal experience to talk about their experience with mental health, and that might be a brown bag, it might be on the back of one of those anchor days that we were talking about. But by opening up the conversation, again, we're helping (a) to increase awareness, but (b) to combat stigma that might be associated with the discussion.

And of course, along with inviting people to tell their personal stories, encouraging our senior leaders to speak openly about mental health as well. I've spoken about that workplace culture of zero tolerance to discrimination, and of course providing information and resources that challenge the stereotypes around mental health conditions. All of that helps us really drive that understanding and combat stigma to make it easier for people to reach out and get the assistance they need. And don't underestimate the value of those sessions and those type of actions that can really be a step change in the way that the culture of the organisation changes and people see that they do have permission to talk.

We'll then go on to how we support more employees with mental health conditions. Really, I think it's key again here and we've focused on this for a lot of the time, but really we need to make sure that we are providing a support regardless of causes. If someone is managing a mental health condition, then what are we doing in the workplace to support that individual, how are we training our managers, what are we putting in place to ensure that our managers can identify the signs and symptoms, and develop their skills for having a conversation. Again, we get to this, but there are, for example, on the Heads Up website, free online training around how to have a conversation, understanding the signs and symptoms.

Yes, there are also fantastic providers, Mental Health First Aid Australia, others, Black Dog, that are providing courses around training and skilling managers accordingly. But let's understand that we can't expect our managers and indeed our individuals in the organisation to have an understanding of this. And as we would have training around physical health and safety, let's put in place training around mental health and safety as well, and ensure that we have a range of support services, whether that's peer support programs, EAP’s, welfare staff, mental health first aid officers, our HR teams internal. Whatever it might be, ensure that we have that range of support services, but that people are aware of them and indeed encourage to use them in an appropriate manner so that we can really ensure, again, I'll add into there, resources like that at beyondblue, the beyondblue support line, other resources around the Heads Up initiative.

Wherever they are, ensure that people are aware of the supports that are available so that, whether it's an individual level or on an organisational level, people know where to reach out for that professional help. And again, developing those stay at work plans, those return to work plans. We know the power of positive work in helping people return to better mental health, and therefore whatever we can do to, again, work with individuals to help them return to work or stay at work is appropriate and a good thing to do to support employees with mental health conditions, and again providing flexible work options to help staff manage their conditions.

Again, I would probably point out that this feels like there's sort of a one way fits all, and I would acknowledge openly that again, as we said earlier, that there aspects of this that are going to be easier to implement in certain workplaces and harder in others. That doesn't mean, therefore, if it's hard that we don't it. It just to say that the idea around flexible work and how that works will be different for each organisation and each individual scenario. But let's think about that holistically when we're thinking about how to support employees with mental health conditions.

Finally, under the seven aspects that sit within the integrated approach, how we're helping to prevent suicide. We spoke earlier about the fact that nearly eight Australians are taking their lives every day. Suicide is a societal issue. Workplaces do not sit outside of our society. In fact, we're a core part of it, and therefore let's absolutely ensure that we're developing clear policies and protocols around suicide risk. That we're, again, educating staff of the warning signs of suicide and promoting key resources available, and again, as I've said before, with mental health, depression and anxiety there are many, many, many resources available to help addressing this specific risk.

And much as I spoke about the Speakers Bureau for depression and anxiety, inviting people with personal experience of recovery related to suicide to share their stories again becomes a really powerful way of opening up the conversation and giving permission for people to talk, of ensuring that people understand how they can help themselves and care for their colleagues at different times. And I think something that's really key to all this, and not just around suicide but clearly around suicide, but depression, anxiety, managing people with a mental health condition, whether at home or at play, we also need to understand what additional supports we're providing to a staff that are bereaved by suicide or staff that are caring for people with a mental health condition. And make sure that we aren't ignoring the key and pivotal aspects of the support that we can provide to those staff that are bereaved by suicide.

So the takeout there is that there's a whole range of, I think, practical actions that we can do to help individuals within the workplace, and that if we think about taking that holistic approach and integrated approach, think about the seven goals. Not think about doing them all at once, but understand that if we're starting to grow a program, wherever we are on the maturity curve of our organisations and our approach to workplace mental health, I would hope that we can find some really practical actions to help us drive forward and improve the mental health of our workplaces.

If I can then just talk briefly and note around how we continue about implementing those actions. I guess I would say that as you're going about implementing your plans to ensure that key people are aware of their responsibilities and timeframes. Again, this becomes key to any program, any change management program that we might be running within an organisation, that it's fine to have the awareness of the plan, but are people aware of their responsibilities and the timeframes associated with the actions that they are taking on. As I mentioned earlier, ideally integrating a broader workplace mental health or a workplace health safety and wellness systems and processes, absolutely key.

It might start as a separate element as you're focusing on it. It might not, but we would suggest that if you're integrating it, you're in a far better place to develop a sustainable approach. Keeping our organisational leaders up-to-date and ensure that they can continue to communicate to staff and continue to communicate more broadly around the reasons why the strategies are being implemented. And I guess start by choosing actions that will have the greatest positive impact, you know. This goes to that idea, yes, there's a lot of information that I've discussed in this last 50 or so minutes, but you don't need to do it all at once. You can just start by choosing some of those high value actions, even as increasing awareness, as we discussed, becoming central.

I won't go into this now, but you'll see on your screens now that here’s an idea of an implementation plan and how you might structure an implementation plan within your organisations. Again, provided as a template, as a thought starter around how and what a plan might look like so that people understand their responsibilities, the timelines, the actions, and the resources that are required. Many organisations will have similar frameworks and templates in place, this is presented as an idea. I'll just reinforce as well to go on that as you move forward, please don't feel like you're starting from scratch.

The information around that we've discussed in this is actually in a guide that's available off the Heads Up website, around developing workplace mental health, and it's a how-to guide. It goes through all this information in even more detail. It's available for download and something that you can get from the Heads Up website. So please understand that even though we've covered a lot and that we will be providing these slides to our participants that are on the webinar, so don't feel like you've got to take screenshots or whatever the case is. This webinar and the slides will be made freely available to everyone that's on the webinar accordingly. But even outside of that, please do access the resources at the Heads Up initiative and register and understand that you can get some great information accordingly. So there's, I guess, an element that says we've got that four-step process that we discussed in webinar two, we've focused here on developing a plan, but keep in mind that whole four-step process still sits in play.

Before I move on to just discuss some additional resources, I just thought I would just ask again, even though we've covered a lot, can I just throw a poll question to you as well… Has this information helped in the context of understanding how you might go about developing a plan and taking action. Oh, wow. So a staggering positive response across yes and definitely yes, and some that have the same understanding too, which is also understandable for those that are in a more mature place on the curve of their journey, but thank you for that feedback. If we can close that, I'll just, I guess, I want to talk a little bit more around the resources that are available. I'll just reinforce, please don't think that you need to start from a blank sheet of paper.

On your screens now are some of the resources that are available on the Heads Up website as free downloads. Some of them are digital downloads. Some of them are absolutely available for you to order, again free, in hard copy. I'd point you to the how-to guide for organisations on the left-hand side, recently produced and a phenomenal resource, again, as a guide for you to take action accordingly. Also I mentioned on the last period the online training that's available, really delve into it. There's so much training that's available on the Heads Up website that is free, evidence-based, allows you to have some great, I guess, capacity building within your organisations. And does it take the place of face-to-face training… No, not always, and some organisations will want both or a moulded approach, but please understand that there are plenty of resources available on the Heads Up website that you can actually start to do to increase the capability and capacity of everyone in your organisation, including your leaders, around having a discussion around workplace mental health.

 Before I close, and I've just noted the time and, forgive me, I do tend to go on and I will try to answer some questions as we move forward, but a few more tips. We've spoken about the alignment. Yeah, do alignment with broader work health and safety and wellness systems over the longer term. View this as not a point in time, I guess. This is, yes, we could call it an initiative if you're starting off, but really this is about the way you're doing business. This is about inculcating it into the DNA of your organisation, much as we have been doing now for many years with physical work health and safety.

Ensure that that strategy that you develop is supported by an implementation plan that's very well supported by leaders, but also visible to the organisation. And just to reinforce, I think, the key parts that I've mentioned a few times, it is absolutely okay and appropriate to start small and grow. It is difficult to try and boil the ocean, to use the term that a leader that I respect said to me in the past. We work for months and months, and sometimes years and years developing this enormous plan, but we've never actually started, so start small and grow the plan is a really powerful way of thinking about how you can use some of the practical actions that we've talked about in the past hour or so.

And just before I tie off, we've spoken about the Heads Up resources. Can I ask, yeah, so are you likely to use the Heads Up resources. There's overwhelming capacity for yes, yes, yes, yes, so that is a phenomenal response. Again, I would encourage anyone to look at headsup.org.au to register to use the resources that are freely available that are evidence-based, and it will help us collectively, I guess, create those workplaces that I mentioned earlier where we can actually go home at the end of the day with energy left over and it's a place that people are working smart, contributing their best effort, and recognised accordingly.

So thank you so much for your time. I'd say please, again, visit. I'm happy to take questions. Questions have been coming through. I know we're very close to the time for going on, but I might be able to have a look at a few as we close out.

Dennis wanted to acknowledge that “When supporting one with mental health you may not get a successful outcome. In small teams you may not have the ability for someone absent for a prolonged period of time, particularly if unreliable.". Absolutely. I think that it is a question that comes up a lot, that it does not necessarily mean that the processes, systems and practices that we are putting in place, means that everyone is going to achieve their best mental health immediately or indeed there's a quick resolution.

I think that there's an element here around making sure that we're providing a culture that is supportive, that we're creating an environment, we're helping all workers achieve their best possible mental health. But I would absolutely acknowledge that there is a significant impact that needs to be recognised, and furthermore that for all our best efforts and best intent, we might not get an outcome either immediately or over the longer term, but we can certainly put in place systems, processes to ensure that we're mitigating the risks and supporting people as best as we can.

There's a question too around "Hey, can I obtain the copies of the previous two webinars?". The answer to that is absolutely yes. The webinars are on the Heads Up website. We can provide links to those, and you can go directly to them accordingly, so please feel free to look at the historical webinars, and indeed this webinar will be on the website probably within the next couple of weeks as we do what is necessary to put it up and do all of the notes, etc. etc.


So I think on that note, I just wanted to again thank everyone for spending the last hour with me and with the beyondblue team, and hopefully from the feedback it sounds like you've gained some really practical tips and hopefully you can take this as a starting point, or for those that are in a more mature part within their plans, you've received some information that can take you even further on your journey. Once again, on behalf of the beyondblue team and the team that supports the Heads Up resources, thank you very much and have a good day.