Managing mental health in the workplace: 'be the change in the world that you want to see'
"Imagine the MCG on Grand Final Day, packed with 100,000 people. This will help you put the following into context: 70,000 people attempt to take their lives each year. And 10% of these will keep trying until they die by suicide." This sobering statistic came from The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC, who was speaking at a Lander & Rogers briefing for employers yesterday.
Mr Kennett, who is the founder and Chairman of beyondblue, joined Partner, Patrizia Mercuri, and Senior Associate, Amie Frydenberg, from Lander & Rogers' Workplace Relations & Safety team, in presenting to employers on managing mental health in the workplace.
According to Mr Kennett, a key point for employers wanting to implement a mental health initiative in their workplace is that it must be driven from the top. He believes that unless the leaders of an organisation are personally committed to taking positive action, the opportunity for that organisation to make real change is substantially reduced.
Ms Mercuri said that dealing with mental health in the workplace could be challenging and confronting for employers, but that, "The prevalence of mental health issues in our community, means dealing with employees who have mental health concerns is an issue that will confront most employers at some stage.
"Developing a mentally healthy workplace and learning more about how to recognise and respond to mental health issues will help organisations meet their obligations to employees."
Mr Kennett said that offering flexibility in the workplace could make a big difference in terms of workplace productivity and employee happiness. "A workplace that is flexible and understands the needs of individual employees will be a happier place where there is less stress and less anxiety," he said.
"We’ve got to make sure that we understand the importance of good health and happiness. I'm not saying that we're trying to achieve Utopia, but we can have a better and more productive workplace."
"Increasingly, people are realising not only the social value, but also the increased productivity that comes from having a mentally healthy workplace."
Ms Mercuri said that in responding to requests for flexibility from employees who are experiencing a mental health issue, it is important, where possible, for employers to be flexible and creative; to think outside the box," she said.
"Mental health in the workplace is an important issue and something that concerns us all. Being able to openly discuss and address it helps contribute to the wellbeing of employees, the workplace and our broader community."
Mr Kennett stressed that one of the most important things in life is managing your own health, both mental and physical. "Plan your life, stay active and, importantly, make sure that activity is mental as well as physical," he advised.
For more information on how to make your workplace mentally healthy go to www.headsup.org.au – created by beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance.