Workplace mental health awareness


Redback Conferencing:



Hello everyone, and welcome to today's Beyond Blue webinar. Today's discussion is on workplace mental health awareness. We are pleased to welcome our presenter for today, Liz Tobin. This webinar is live and interactive. You are encouraged to pose questions to the presenters throughout the presentation. If you experience any technical issues during the webinar, please dial our support team on 1800 733 416. This number's also listed in the chat box. I’d now like to pass you over to Liz to begin.


Liz Tobin:


Welcome, everyone. It's absolutely lovely to be here today. Thank you all very much for joining this webinar. Over the course of the webinar, I'll be providing lots of information. We'll also have opportunity to answer questions at the end. A key reminder is that you'll be given a copy of this webinar, so you don't have to scribble notes madly.

Just to introduce myself again, I'm here on behalf of Beyond Blue. I'm a workplace health and wellbeing facilitator executive coach and consultant. From the outset, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land we meet on today, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present. And the elders from other communities who may be here today.

I appreciate that many of you may already be aware of Beyond Blue, but before I get started on our presentation, I just wanted to provide a bit of a background with some information on Beyond Blue and Heads Up for those of you who are new to this space.

Beyond Blue is an independent, not for profit organisation working to increase awareness and understanding of anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention in Australia and to reduce the associated stigma with this. Beyond Blue has a number of program areas. The area that I represent today is the workplace program. This aims to promote more mentally healthy workplaces Australia-wide, and Beyond Blue has been working in this area since 2004.

In 2013, the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance was formed. For the first time, an alliance of government sector, the mental health sector, and importantly the business sector, came together recognising the benefits to all Australians of mentally healthy work places. The role of the business sector in the alliance is very significant, and brings what we haven't seen in the past; a sense of workplaces acknowledging this is no longer a nice-to-have, but something that is really necessary both from an economic and productive perspective, and more importantly from a wellbeing perspective.

Developed by the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance and Beyond Blue, Heads Up calls on business leaders to make commitment and start taking action in their workplaces. It also encourages everyone in the workplace to play their part in creating a mentally healthy work environment, take care of their own mental health, and look out for their colleagues.

So, we're focusing today really just on workplace mental health awareness. This is the key area. So many of you may already have a lot of information and a lot of knowledge, so it's fantastic that you've come on today. And for those of you who are new, hopefully we'll be providing some information that you haven't come across before.

The areas that we are going to be concentrating on are understanding mental health; understanding anxiety, depression and suicide; the impact of anxiety and depression on work. We'll look at risk factors and protective factors that impact on the individual. We'll talk about looking after yourself. And we'll be discussing resources and help lines at the end. Then we'll be finishing off with some questions.

So, firstly, I'd like to take a minute just to get a better understanding of how you would rate your current awareness of mental health and how it relates to the workplace. So it would be great if you could just fill out this poll that's popped up in front of you and rate it. Give you all a minute to do that.

So, what you'll be looking at here is what your understanding of mental health and how it relates to the workplace, whether you feel that is very low, low, adequate, good, or very good. What we're seeing is a lot of people coming in in that middle section and a lot of people coming in in that good, which is fantastic. I'll just give it a few more seconds because it's just shifting. That adequate and good and a few of you for low, hopefully we can start building on these today and get more people up to that very good area. So thank you very much for all of you to do that. We'll just give that one more moment. Great.

Okay, so now I'm leading on to look at understanding mental health. So firstly, what is mental health? It is not simply the absence of health conditions such as anxiety and depression. On the slide here, you can see the World Health Organization definition. When we refer to mental health, it is about being cognitively, emotionally, and socially healthy. The way we think, feel, and develop relationships and not merely, as I said, the absence of a mental health condition. So, this is the working definition that we'll be using today.

This chart here is what we call a continuum. It may be familiar to some of you. It indicates how our mental health can look day-to-day, week-to-week, but it is a sliding scale. It doesn't stay at one way in time. So, it is a combination of our mental illness symptoms, our wellbeing, our feelings of happiness, contentment, and satisfaction on an ongoing basis.

When we look at this, we can also see the green area, and when we look at that what it tends to represent if people are feeling that green is that it shows high resilience and high levels of wellbeing. This doesn't mean they never experience any challenges to their mental health, rather that they are able to draw on coping mechanism and supports to effectively manage these difficulties as they come along.

It's also really important to remember that mental health is complex. The fact that someone is not experiencing a mental health condition doesn't necessarily mean their mental health is flourishing. So, this may be when they're in that middle space, that yellow, that orange. Likewise, it is possible to be diagnosed with a mental health condition or feeling quite well in many aspects of life and functioning quite highly.

From a workplace perspective, it's not enough to wait until people are in that orange and red area and then react to what's going on for them and then start to support them. We really want to shift this focus to get people within workplaces to start to put their hand up when they're in yellow or orange or just going through a tough time to say that they're not okay so we can really work towards a truly preventative model.

Understanding anxiety, depression and suicide is what we look at next. First I have some facts here that are taken from the Australia Bureau of Statistics just to give us an overall picture of what's going on in Australia for mental health. Tragically, more than eight Australians take their own lives every day, six of whom are males. And for every suicide, approximately 30 attempts are made.

The graphic is actually just outdated, unfortunately. The change we would have to make to this would be that eight is now just more than eight. And it's really awful as a professional to have to keep reminding us all that this is actually going up. So these are the following from the release of the ABS. And when you consider there's all these numbers, they really represent individual people, their families, their friends, their partners. There's a huge ripple effect of every death and it has a profound effect on all Australians every day and every year.

Mental health conditions, especially depression, are present in a high proportion of people who suicide. Many of whom are untreated at the time of their death. Today, approximately 3 million people in Australia are living with depression and anxiety. These are conditions that can be effectively treated and an individual can make a full recovery. However to achieve this, early intervention is really, really important. Sadly, we know that approximately 30% of people experiencing depression and anxiety are not seeking treatment. So we need to really start to create an environment where people feel more like they can put their hand up to say they are struggling, to say that they need help. And workplaces provide a fantastic opportunity to start having these conversations and providing these supports.

Facts about anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression affect people in very different ways and are very individual how people experience the different signs and symptoms. So they will often impact on people's daily lives, including their ability to work. Different people access different treatments, supports to get well, and to stay well. One thing that is really important is that when people don't seek treatment and support, this does, or can I should say, increase their risk for suicide.

Anxiety is more than just being stressed. Stress is a really natural human response to situations and we all know what it feels like to be stressed day-to-day and how our body responds. Anxiety is much greater than that. It is a feeling of feeling very overwhelmed. It may not be for any reason in particular or it may be for a reason that seems disproportionate to the situation. It can really impact on people's ability to function at work, and there's many common signs and symptoms which we'll look at in a moment.

There's several types of anxiety. I'm not going to go into all of these today. If you are interested in one particular type of anxiety, I encourage you to look on the Beyond Blue website and we'll have an overview of each of those. One of the key things about anxiety is it is just really important that people get treatment and supports early to support their recovery.

Here's a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of anxiety. They generally go across the physical, feeling, thinking and behavioural. Most people experience more than one of these areas at any moment in time. So it's not unusual for people to have very poor sleep, to be feeling very overwhelmed, to be dreading going to work, to be dreading completing tasks that they would normally do quite easily. So I'll just give you a moment to have a look at those.

How these will often present in the workplace can be where we see people maybe losing confidence or maybe taking days off, maybe not completing tasks. I always say to people, the key thing to look out for rather than trying to have a checklist on hand is changes in behaviour. So when you're sort of saying to yourself someone doesn't seem quite right, they would normally do that well, they would normally answer my emails promptly. It is a combination of things going on that can often be a prompt to just check in and make sure they're okay.

Depression. Depression is more than low mood. It affects people how they feel, how they think, and how they cope with everyday life and can often impact on their ability to work and do tasks they would normally do very competently. When a person is depressed, they will often feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, a lack of pleasure, feel down or miserable more often than not. A benchmark that we put here is for more than two weeks. So that's to really encourage people who are feeling that flatness, that again is just a human response. But on an ongoing basis, if they're feeling that, to reach out and seek support and talk about it early on.

Some of the signs and symptoms here of depression, similar to anxiety, are across all different areas. The physical, the feeling, the thinking and behavioural. And similar to anxiety, these can really impact on someone's ability to work. People often describe feeling absolutely exhausted, just wanting to curl up in a ball and sleep all the time. So that really impacts as we would imagine, on their ability to get to work on time, to perform, to engage with their co-workers. This paired with often feelings of just seeming like “I'm worthless, I'm a failure, I'm not doing anything right.” So the combination of those things, it can be a very hard place for an individual to be and it's not a place where we want people to be coming to work each day feeling that way. We want to be setting up workplaces to engage people, so they feel like they can say “I'm not sure what's going on for me but I'm feeling pretty rotten” or “I'm not feeling myself at the moment.”

Coming back to suicide, unfortunately we know around 3,000 people in Australia take their own lives each year. As I said earlier, this is equating to more than eight people per day. Men are three times more likely to take their own lives by suicide than woman, and we know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice as likely to take their own lives. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. So if we were to look at our current workplace, that really captures people in the peak of their working careers. Again, it reminds us that the workplace becomes a really important place to provide supports and have conversations.

It's true to say that suicide is complex, and we don't fully understand the reasons and the thinking around this behaviour. What I've got here now is a short video. This is Shane's story talking about his experience with suicide. He talks about what his work did to help him, so I'll just ask you to listen to that for a few moments and scribble any thoughts down.




(In his early twenties, Shane attempted to take his life twice. Can you tell us about how you were before your first suicide attempt?) Over time, three or four years, it built up. It built up and there's a lot of things, just little things, that triggered it. I wasn't where I thought I'd be playing footy. I thought I'd be a bit better than I was but at the same time, I didn't put in the hard work because I didn't go to training sometimes because I didn't want to confront people. Sometimes I'd go to try to go to work and I couldn't get to work. I'd break down in my car and be in tears and have to call in sick. Felt as if I couldn't tell them what was going on. I just said I wasn't well. So, there's a lot of things that built up over time that drew me to the point of thinking of suicide.

(How was it talking to your employers and taking time off to recover?) That was probably the hardest because I worked with a guy. I saw my boss a macho man. Being honest and upfront to him would be a real struggle. I thought I'd probably lose my job. So that was, I suppose, another burden on me that I knew I was going through so much that if I let this fall, I'm just going to lose my job. But after the attempt, I messaged him on the Sunday and I was very upfront and honest. The support was amazing. He said, “Take as much time as you want off work and just be honest with me and upfront, you know? I don't want you to worry about things.”

The other bloke I worked with I think came in and visited me, and they both are people that don't understand it and still don't understand it to this day. But considering that, their support has just been phenomenal. I probably had three months off work after the first attempt and I probably got a message off either one of them every week or two. Just asking how I was. It wasn't, when are you coming back to work? It was “how are you? What's going on? What have you been up to?” I could tell they were making an effort. It made it easy to worry about myself because I knew that I had a job to go back to and the money wasn't going to be an issue.

He sat me down on the second day I worked and had a really good chat with me and just said, “You know if there's anything you need, you know, just talk if you need a day off. Just message me. I know you probably can't call sometimes. Just let me know. We’ll work through it. We'll get through it.” That was amazing, to have that.

(What advice would you give to someone supporting a colleague who has attempted suicide?) I don't think there's any wrong way to go about it, apart from saying “get over it,” or all that kind of negative stuff. If you're generally trying to be positive, there's just so much that you can do. It can be as little as just asking “how are you" or just offering your assistance. Being open to suggestions about things, and obviously my boss was willing to make sacrifices about the workplace environment for me to keep me on. It's the little things that I tend to remember and hold on to, that people making an effort and just making someone feel safe and comfortable in the environment they're in.


Liz Tobin:


Okay. Thank you very much. For anyone who had problems with their video freezing, we'll be sending you a link. Also, a reminder for those of you who have joined us a bit later, we will be sending the entire presentation out to you shortly. Not right now, obviously. We'll just keep proceeding on now.

Understanding suicide as I mentioned before is complex. It's often a complex interaction between a variety of factors, immediate triggers, and a lack of protective factors. Suicide thoughts are extremely distressing and the person will be experience an overwhelming sense of despair, sadness and unbearable pain.

Just listed here are some of the risk factors. Now obviously we don't always see or are aware of the risk factors, but this gives us some idea. It's really good to be aware of these and to socialise these so that everyone is aware of what they are.

Some of the key ones here is previous attempts, having relationship problems, access to harmful means, death of a family member or a close member, a close friend, having a mental health condition, a history of mental health, exposure to bullying, losing a friend or a family member who has taken their own life, physical disability or illness, and history of substance abuse. As I mentioned, this list is not complete of course and we will not always be aware of those risk factors. Especially in a workplace, we're often not aware of what else goes on for someone after 9-5 or after their shift finishes, whatever that might be.

There is also some warning signs which again are really important to be aware of in our workplaces and our homes and communities, of course. Again, you may not always be aware of these warning ... it's a tricky word, warning. Signs within the workplace. So obviously previous suicide attempts, talking about feeling hopeless, helpless, suicidal or actually articulating that they want to end their own life. Talking about being a burden to others, saying they want to harm themselves, and agitation and anxiety, irritability or anger that is uncharacteristic. Likewise, just changes in behaviour or feeling oddly calm and appear to be getting their affairs in order.

The one thing that's not listed here that I'd like to add is your gut feeling. Always be guided by your gut feeling. If you just have a sense that something isn't right with someone and you just feel uneasy about it, always follow that up. Always approach them or someone who cares about them, if it's not, if you can and just make sure they're okay. What we do know about understanding suicide is that with supports and practical tips, suicidal thinking often decreases in frequency and intensity. As I said before, if you're concerned about anyone or encourage them to seek professional help.

So, what we're going to talk about now is the impact of anxiety and depression on the workplace. So, impact. Over the years, we've really come to realise that it has quite a significant impact and there's research and knowledge around this area. So the impact of anxiety and depression on the workplace for the individual is what we see is increasing days off because they're genuinely not feeling well enough to get out of bed and get to work. Reduced personal finances. So for many people, if they don't have any sick leave or they're not well enough to get to work, then we see impact and create an additional stress to them and their families and households. What we see is low team morale, increased workload and reduced team productivity.

The business case for creating a mentally healthy workplace is reduced financial costs on both the business and individual. So, for every dollar invested in effective mental health initiatives, there's an average return on investment of $2.30. The legal requirements around this? Employers and employees alike have a shared responsibility, basically to make sure that everyone in the workplace is well all the time and not at risk.

Other reasons to create a mental healthy workplace include some of the things that have positive impact it can have on work. So individuals mental health, team engagement, team morale, improved productivity, lower staff turnover, retaining skills and expertise. We know that when people are happy at work, they're more reluctant to look for another job. It's one of the key things.

We now look at risk and protective factors for the individual. There's a number of protective and risk factors. These are things that will impact positively and negatively on an individual. Some of the factors that might increase someone's risk will include unhealthy job stress, bullying/harassment, constant change. We know this, particularly if there is uncertainty around job insecurity, redundancy going on in an organisation, and job loss will all have a really big impact. Long hours, unclear work role, shift work, and many more there that you can have a look at.

What I suggest you do with this list, if you're wanting to start to look at some changes internally, is to think about what is really relevant to your workplace or to your teams and ask them what are the risk factors for them at this moment in time, and start to leverage off the key things that are most relevant to the people in your organisation.

Protective factors in the workplace are the same. You really need to talk to your people and ask them what they like about working here. Is it easy to access support if they need it? Are there regular meetings, or are there too many meetings? Are there opportunities to talk one-on-one with managers and key people on an ongoing basis? So, providing flexible working conditions is a really key thing for many workplaces. Access to support at work. Training, engagement with colleagues. So again, what I'd suggest you do is to look at this in the context of your workplace. It can be a great thing to put a list like this just up on a whiteboard as a point of discussion with your teams.

There's also personal risk factors, and there'll be different levels of how much information you know about the people that you're working with as to how exposed they are to these risk factors at any point in time. This is just a snapshot of some of the personal risk factors that people are exposed to and we all know this list could go on and on. I suppose the key thing about a mentally healthy workplace is creating an environment if people are going through something that is quite distressing and is putting their mental health at risk, but the workplace is open to supporting that and talking about that and helping them through those tough times.

Personal protective factors, and here comes into that personal responsibility for what people are doing possibly at work but also outside of work hours. Their support from family and their friends that they may be tapping into, their exercise, sleeping well, good sleeping patterns, and all those things that contribute to us being well on an ongoing basis.

Now look at looking after yourself. It's important for everyone to look after themselves, not just when you start to feel unwell or we're not coping. It's an ongoing thing for all of us to be aware of what are our triggers, what are our stressors, and what we need to be doing to maintain our wellbeing.

It's really important that if you are concerned about yourself, a colleague, friend, or family member that you either support them to seek assistance, or seek assistance for yourself. We do know that a key thing about looking after yourself is accessing those effective treatments and supports when they're needed, and knowing what they are for when you may need them or a friend or family needs them. What we do know about looking after yourself is very different for different people. So while there's lots of options, it's really important that people work out what's going to work for them and tap into the things that really resonate.

Different treatment and support options are available here. Seeing a GP is always a really good starting point for many people. They may recommend medications, counselling, lifestyle changes, and in addition to that from the workplace that's tapping into things, like AIP or peer support programs.

We're now just going to go to the second poll question. So, I'll just give you a moment to think about how you feel about your awareness of mental health and how it relates to the workplace has grown through participating in this webinar. So, it'd be great if you could just fill this out. I'll give you a moment to do that. It should pop up on your screen. Great. So again, the question is, how you would rate your understanding of mental health and how it relates to the workplace now?

I'm secretly delighted that no one has said very low and that we're getting some really positive responses here around good and very good. So that's fantastic. I'll just give you a moment more before we close that off. Great, thank you all very much for doing that and as I said, it's really encouraging to see.

I'm going to spend some time now going through resources and helplines that are available. Just to remind you again at this point so you don't have to scribble them all down madly, you will be sent a copy of this webinar will all this information on it.

One of our key resources is the Heads Up website. This website has been designed really to provide workplaces with all the resources they need from right through the individual staff member, to leaders in the business, to small business owners, OHNS managers, front line staff with resources. Everything on this website is free. Most of the resources, they're very simple, very practical, so it's a great resource to be aware of. If you haven't already played around on the Heads Up website, I would strongly encourage you to do it in the next day or so, just while it's fresh in your mind. If you're managing people, this is a very good link to send them and start to use some of the resources, which I'm going to go through a few in a bit more detail now.

There's a whole section on the Heads Up website where you can learn more about mental health and also mental health conditions. In this section of the website, you can find a section on taking care of yourself and staying well. This has some fantastic information for employees about things that they can do both at work and at home. So around that whole piece of really looking after themselves on an ongoing basis. There's also information for employees around workplace bullying and working with a mental health condition. This is a great tool, so I encourage you to have a look at this and also share it with your staff and colleagues.

Here's a snapshot of some of the other resources that are available. These ones can actually be ordered and you'll be sent down copies. So just to remind you, these are free. I think these are fantastic to just choose one or two at a time and have them dotted around your workplaces. You'll be surprised how quickly these will disappear so I'd encourage you to have a closer look at those.

There's also online training. Again, the way I would recommend that you use these in workplaces is within a training forum, in small hubs so people can then talk about the training tools together and everyone is getting the same key messages at the same time. Some of these resources are on the shareable content objective reference model, so it means you can actually import them into your LMS so that you can actually have them in your system. So again, have a closer look at these. One of the ones that I really like is the personal stories up there which has people talking about their experiences, they're all ambassadors for Beyond Blue. They've just shared the information about how they have managed having a mental health condition and their recovery and the impact and how they've managed work during that time. So they can be really positive and don't take much out of the work day to look at those.

There's some fantastic information here on workplace suicide prevention. And given the steps that we've talked about today, I think pop this at the top of your list if you can because this information is just critical, not for just people in workplaces but homes, communities right across the board because we do know that risk is so high at the moment. We don't always know who needs this information and when do they need this information, so it's nice to make it available for everyone. I would encourage you to have a really good look at this. It has tips on someone returning to work after a suicide attempt, including tips for conversations with them, information on supporting others after a workmate has come back to work, and someone who has been bereaved by suicide. So those can be really powerful and they can be really great tool within your workplace.

Beyond Blue has a great support options available, free supports that you can access also on phone and online. So you can find more information about depression and anxiety and suicide prevention, and how to get supports from the Beyond Blue website and order or download the huge range of resources for free. So I greatly encourage to do that more strongly.

This is also one of Beyond Blue’s newer sections on the website, which I think is absolutely fantastic. It has lots of information for anyone looking to improve their mental health and wellbeing. It has from mindfulness as to what you should be eating through to breakfast. It has information, stories, tips and strategies. It's a lovely thing to start to integrate some of this into your workplaces.

These support options here, I would strongly encourage you if you don't already have these available on a poster or on your intranet in your workplaces, because as I said just briefly before, in workplaces you won't always know whether someone is needing this information. So make it available to everyone all the time so it's just very easy for them if they're having a tough time to get access to this information.

Here's some other useful websites which would be worth your having a look at if you have time or to earmark them to have a look at over the next week or two. And they all really complement each other, I think.

We now have one more poll question for you. Before we start to look at questions posted throughout this webinar, I would just like you to take a minute and to see how confident you are to know where to learn more about improving mental health in the workplace. I'm happy to see it's going very confident and that you're all thinking about logging on to Heads Up straight after this. That's fantastic. You'll be absolutely delighted at the wealth of information that's in there. And if you're already familiar with it, it's nice to go back in and just pick out a few key things. Fantastic. Thank you all very much for responding to that poll.

So now we're going to move to questions. I think many of you have been putting questions through as I've been talking, and now we'll go through and answer them. Questions that we don't have time to answer today will be answered at some point in time. I need to also just remind you before I get stuck into the questions that we do have our next webinar will be held on the 25th of October and will be on how to support staff and colleagues with mental health concerns. It will outline tips for having conversations with someone at work that you may be concerned about, how to support an employee or a colleague recovering at work, and information to know what supports and resources are available for staff and how to access them. If you have registered for this webinar, you'll still need to register for the next one so that's really important that you'll need to register for both separately.

Now we'll move to questions. One of the key questions I noticed that came through earlier on is around the suicide stats, that why do more men take their own lives? There's lots of anecdotal I suppose evidence around this, and there's a few for what's around this. One of the first is that men still aren't going to doctors even when they need to. And they're not as engaged in their wellbeing process. That women often have their doctor they already know, or they have a counsellor in place. So men still aren't engaging fully in that process.

Also, unfortunately they also sometimes have access to more lethal means. We know this particularly for men in rural areas, and so that also compounds their risk. The other risk here is that just day-to-day, they may not actually tap into their family and friends and supports in a way that women often do. So women, not always, but often will have a support structure through their colleagues, through their friends, through their family, where they're very open about how their feelings and their difficulties. A combination of those three may be one of the reasons that contributes to this.

One of the other questions we were asked earlier on around OCD, is it always related to anxiety? What I encourage you to do, Jackie, is to jump on the Beyond Blue website, have a look on OCD. It comes under the anxiety disorder cluster but that will give you a really good definition of how that does present and impact people.

Loneliness is a big risk factor. Most definitely loneliness is a big risk factor for depression, anxiety, and suicide and it's one of the things that we often will flag. So this is where I think a workplace can play a really important role. You may not know someone's level of social interaction outside of work or the supports that they have, but definitely by providing avenues where people are connected in a workplace has lots of benefits. We know that people enjoy that in their workplace, feel more connected, but it can also provide a really good opportunity to decrease an impact on that risk of loneliness.

Should corporate mental health along these guidelines be written specifically to be sympathetic to cultural aspects? Most certainly, Kevin. It's really important when corporate mental health and awareness guidelines are written is that they are responding to their whole organisation and everyone within that organisation needs to be represented. I always recommend for people who are looking at reviewing or starting their policies, procedures or their recommendations around mental health in a workplace is that they put together steering committees and working committees that will represent all components of that organisation and at all levels and all backgrounds.

Sarah, thank you for your question. Your question was, we know bullying is a risk factor for mental health problems, yet it goes on so much at work. What can we do to address this? It's a great question and this needs to be really individualised again to specific workplaces where you need to have policies that have zero bullying policies in place, and they need to be lived and breathed at all levels of the organisation. With things like this, you really need champions at a leadership level who are really putting that high on the agenda. And pulling out people very, very quickly if there is any bullying incidents. And valuing people who are reporting that they feel bullying or harassed at any point in time.

Lauren's question. What do you do if you notice your own employee discloses to their colleague they have a mental health illness, however is not wanting to take any action? My guess is that it might be often people do disclose they have a mental health condition but they don't want to seek help. This becomes a joint responsibility. It's not just the employer's responsibility, the employee has a responsibility to take actions to look after their own health and wellbeing and it's something they need to do. On the flip side of that around privacy, we do really need to respect if people do not want to disclose right across the organisation. There’s not much we can do about that in some situations. Just be respectful and supportive to that individual.

Jill asked the question, where can we find what question as a guide when we have a conversation with someone who's suffering depression for managers? Look, Jill, it's really important in the workplace environment that you don't try and dig too deep. You just respect whatever the person is telling you and then you support them to get the best help they need. If you have an AIP, that's your first point of call, or direct them to the doctor's and maybe direct them to some Beyond Blue’s website where they can sort of look at information themselves. Your role is generally to be either a manager or a colleague, and that's the key. Even if your background is as a health professional, if you're not employed to be their counsellor, you can't flip that hat on.

Next question I have here, do you have any assistance on how to develop wellbeing champions in the workplace? Yes. I love this question. I think it's a fantastic question. What I would start by doing is ask who is interested in being a wellbeing champion across your workplace and try and get a representation of people who want to come together and really want to drive that and then start to map out really proactive practical ways. Wellbeing champions work best when they have really practical strategies that resonate well with their staff, that colleagues want to engage and be part of.

I think one of the themes here where I'd read right around having conversations with people. There are quite a few questions around how to have conversations or how to respond to conversations. One of the resources that I showed you before has a whole training module on how to have conversations in the workplace. It will also be something that we look on in our next webinar series. I think that's a running theme here.

I'm looking through the next questions here. All right, there's some around different training programs. I would have to say the best training programs, you'll all laugh, I I’ve forgotten all the Beyond Blue training programs as your starting point. These will all be evidence based and they all replicate the messages that I've talked about today. ;

Around different services that are available, people are asking about different services. Because I'm doing this nationally, the best thing that I would suggest is to look at services in your key area. Also asking your GPs. This will change state to state around what is available, so in some states GPs will be able to put together mental health awareness plans for people that then gives them free access to counselling sessions. But check what your state has available.

We have another question here. Madeline, where we can go to develop a return-to-work plan? There are some templates on the Heads Up website so I encourage you to have a look at them.

This next one, Vanessa, is a really difficult question. How do you deal with colleagues who don't seem to care or be bothered by other people’s feelings? We need to really be careful, that's a tricky one, that we don't make assumptions about how people are operating in a workplace. And it may be around some team building that's required there. It's really hard for me to give a direct answer to questions like that without knowing individual organisation and individual situations.

There are some questions here around stress management. I encourage people to have a look at that new website that Beyond Blue has put around be the best you. There's some good information there around mindfulness. The other thing that is great there is the mindfulness apps, Smiling Mind I would recommend. It's very easy for people to access. They can access it on their way to work, on their phones, during a break. It's a nice one to integrate into the workplace promoting that.

I'm just looking for a few more questions here, so we're going through those. Travis, this is a really good question. What are some strategies to improve mental wellbeing of the whole workforce, more broadly. It's probably a two tiered approach here. You probably want to start with education and promotion if that hasn't already been in place at different levels. Then you may also want to do more target things for different teams, so getting people to watch this webinar might be one starting point that you do around general awareness or pulling up some of the training programs that are on this.

Also, just starting to talk more about mental health in the workplace is generally a really good way to start to reduce the stigma and increase awareness. So, start to normalise it. The personal stories I think can be fantastic for that, the one that I directed you to earlier on the Heads Up.

How can you encourage someone to get help if they're extremely reluctant to? Look, I think this is the million-dollar question. This can be really difficult. At the end of the day, we can't force someone to get help if they're not ready to or not wanting to, and in the workplace we need to be really mindful of respecting their privacy. But that said, the more information we provide them, the easier we make it for them to access the supports that they need, the better.

I always say to people as well, keep trying. Don't just try once or don't be just the only person who tries. Come at the same problem a few different ways. If you approach someone face-to-face, that might not go well. You might shoot them a short email saying, “I'm really worried about you. You don't have to respond to me. Here's your reminder of the supports that are available.” Then you are giving them the information but they need to be ready themselves to do that.

Crystal, you've asked, where can we find examples of businesses who have implemented health and wellbeing programs in the workplace? As you're looking for ideas and examples to implement these, I would say jump on the Heads Up website. There are some fantastic businesses who have really jumped in and really worked hard in this space, and then have shared their experiences of their success and their pitfalls on the Heads Up website. So there's some real gold there to have a look at.

Peter, you've asked the question, do you think women avoid talking about stress and anxiety because they are seen as weak or not coping? That's a really big question, and it might not just be women. It may be a stigma right across the board, particularly in workplaces where people are reluctant to talk about difficulties that they're having because everyone is trying to be their best the minute they walk through those doors at work. I'd say that probably still is a risk factor across the board.

Right, so Debbie. Your question was, as a supervisor of an employee with a mental health condition, where does our duty of care finish? How do you set boundaries and still be supportive? Debbie, this is a great question and many of you may share this question. It can actually be very, very challenging. The key thing is that you need to be transparent, you need to be respectful, and you can't have a one size fits all approach to your staff around this. You always need to be seen to be acting reasonably and practicably case-by-case. I encourage you again to look at Heads Up for the resources there and some of the things that will help you. If it feels like it is overwhelming, then I encourage you to get some other support either internally if your organisation has that or externally to guide you on that specific case.

Sam, you've asked about recommending any self-assistance, self-care surveys which employees could fill in to help identify areas of mental health to focus on. This is a really tricky thing in workplaces around privacy and disclosure. I haven't got one particular thing that I'd advise you to do there. I think you're probably better doing general things to individuals. The other thing that does prompt me though to make your staff aware if they're having a tough time, Beyond Blue website does have a depression checklist that they can have a look at. But something for all staff generally doesn't really capture or direct. You can look at the stats and interpret those stats. The stats that I showed you earlier will probably be current for most workplaces right across Australia and use that as your bench line to take action.

Andrew, really good question on increasing mental health in isolated and remote workforces. It would be about reaching out to other similar industries across Australia and setting up different supports across with each other. Rach, you might have something to add to that.


Rachel Komen:


Hey, everyone. I'm Rachel from Beyond Blue, and I think it is a big concern, especially for a lot of workplaces that might have rural and remote settings across Australia, so it's not just necessarily one. I think it's important to sort of keep the connection going and speak to the staff about ways that they want to be connected and how they feel they can be connected. That might be video conferences and teleconferences regularly so that even if they're isolated, they're still part of conversations and decision making and part of events. There's some online training programs and information that they can utilise. How about setting up a teleconference meeting with the group afterwards to discuss whatever they're doing in isolation so that everyone can have their say and provide feedback. That can be a great way to help.


Liz Tobin:


Great, thank you very much for that, Rach. That's fantastic. So, I will just come back to this. So many great questions coming through.

Priya asked the question here, do you feel that stigma around mental health is improving in Australia? Delightedly, I would say most definitely. I've been working this space for over 20 years and I remember the first talk I did – someone at the front said to me, “Are you kidding me? Do we have to know this at work?” That would never happen now, and it's absolutely wonderful that we've had such a shift over that time that we are talking about it and we are seeing it as a real joint responsibility.


Rachel Komen:


I'm just going to jump into it for another question. Paul has asked, I'm developing a wellbeing committee. Can you advise on what resources might be available to support this?

Now, they've got a lot of great resources on Heads Up, and I know we've talked about this a lot, but I think it's really useful. You can utilize these for things such as this. Under the Healthy Workplaces section on the Heads Up, there's a section called Strategies for Healthy Workplaces and that takes you through how to develop a healthy workplace, how to get feedback, how to implement and develop a plan. So stuff like that can be really useful for your wellbeing committee.

Another thing that can be helpful is to look at the past webinars that we've got on Heads Up. So we've already completed four webinars. A few of them are on how to develop a healthy workplace and why it's important. That can be a really great way to educate others and yourself. Share it with the workplace so that they're on the same page as what you're learning.

The last one we did was around Toolbox Talks, which is a face-to-face training program that you can utilise yourself. As part of that, it talks about how wellbeing committees have implemented that Toolbox Talks and to how they've used that to help them in the work that they're doing in their workplace.


Liz Tobin:


Great. Thank you very much for that, Rach. So coming back to the questions. The questions, I'll just say, because they're coming thick and fast and we’ve probably only got time for one or two more. They will all be collated after this and responded to.

Susan has asked, any tips on dealing with the employee who discloses to their colleague they have a mental health illness, however is not wanting to share this with anyone in HR or management? Thanks, Susan. This is quite a common question, and it comes back to having to really respect someone's privacy and their choice. But, if you're really genuinely concerned about someone, it's also making sure that they've got avenues to get the help that they need. That's again something that we'll be covering more in the next webinar, because it's a really tricky one. Sometimes HR will have a sense that something is going on, but not be in a position to do anything. So we'll have to put broad supports out there for people to hopefully pick up.

I think we've just got time for one more question. Jackie, I'm mindful that you've said practical help in the workplace is needed, not info on websites. I suppose how I really want to respond to that is that the website information is for you to download. It is to take it and sit with your teams, watch the videos, read the information. It's not about sitting and looking at it because that will absolutely zero change. The Toolbox Talks are a fantastic example of that. They've been designed as a free resource for workplaces to actually carry out training in their workplaces, to start changing conversation in their workplaces, and to get everyone in the workplace on the same landscape at the same point in time.


Rachel Komen:


Just to add to that, Heads Up is about empowering workplaces to have the tools and resources to be able to take action for themselves. So, it's less about the handholding, and it's about empowering organisations and workplaces to learn and be educated, and to improve on the mental health of their whole workforce, and to become more productive and in better places to work. It might just be information on a website, but you can take that, as Liz said, and apply that to your team and use it how it's useful for you because every workplace is different and unique. It's important that you don't get a one size fits all box. That you find what's going to work for you and you make it work.


Liz Tobin:


Great, thank you, Rach.


Rachel Komen:


Thank you all so much for participating in this webinar today. Thank you for all the questions that have flooded through. We’ll be signing off now, so thank you very, very much everyone. A reminder, you'll be sent this and you'll also be sent a link of the video that I showed you today. Great, thanking you again.


Redback Conferencing:


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