Mentally healthy workplaces – An opportunity for business, employees and the community

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Therese Fitzpatrick , Head of Workplace and Workforce at beyondblue, says that ‘organisations and business that promote mental health in the workplace benefit by increased productivity, performance, creativity, staff retention and being perceived as an employer of choice.’

beyondblue defines a mentally healthy workplace as one that protects and promotes good mental health and empowers people to seek help for depression and anxiety, for the benefit of the individual, organisation and community.

Having a Mentally Healthy Workplace is about improving the mental health of all employees, while reducing the impact on the workplace of those who are experiencing a mental health condition.

Good mental health affects all aspects of a business, from increasing productivity, to improved employee engagement and morale, and the recruitment and retention of staff (particularly in times of skills shortages), through being perceived as an employer of choice.

Individuals who have high-quality jobs, reflected by the nature of the role and the working environment, are more likely to have better mental health. Employers who promote and support good mental health in the workplace have reduced direct and indirect costs, and ensure that their ethical and legal obligations to protect employee health and safety are met.

beyondblue has resources to assist organisations to create mentally healthy workplaces.

  • A set of free eLearning resources has been released. These are available on the beyondblue website (www.beyondblue.org.au/workplaceonline).
  • The highly-successful beyondblue National Workplace Program (NWP) training sessions deliver a range of strategies to help workplaces become mentally healthy. There are five different workshops for people in different roles and at different organisational levels.
  • The beyondblue support service which is open 24 hours a day now provides short-term solution-focused counselling, web-based chat and callers can request to speak with a counsellor of the same gender.

beyondblue has also received government funding to provide free or heavily-subsidised training to improve the mental health of workers across Australia, help reduce male suicide rates and to increase the number of businesses which promote having a mentally healthy workplace.

Any business can apply, but preference will be given to male-dominated workplaces, small to medium enterprises, not-for-profit organisations, unions and businesses in construction, mining, manufacturing and transport. Visit www.beyondblue.org.au/nwp for more information.

beyondblue is a founding member of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (MHWA). The MHWA is a new national collaborative approach by business, community and government to encourage Australian workplaces to become mentally healthy for the benefit of the whole community and businesses, big and small.

beyondblue, in collaboration with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, is currently developing a comprehensive online resource to give employers simple tools, practical advice, information and resources to take action to make their workplaces mentally healthy.

The website will cover all areas of workplace mental health, including the benefits of creating a mentally healthy workplace, the business case to support, the return on investment to expect, how to manage an employee experiencing a mental health condition, and how to reduce the risk by changing workplace culture.

To date, the information and resources are grouped into six main areas:

  1. Creating a mentally healthy workplace
  2. Taking care of myself at work
  3. Giving support to colleagues
  4. Rights and obligations
  5. Learning resources
  6. Connecting with others.

The website will go live in 2014 and will include links to relevant resources for all Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance Members, and will be the first comprehensive portal for all the information workplaces need to become mentally healthy.

The founding members of the Alliance are: National Mental Health Commission; Business Council of Australia; COSBOA (Council of Small Business of Australia); Mental Health Council of Australia; beyondblue; Black Dog Institute; Safe Work Australia; Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; SANE Australia; ComCare; Australian Psychological Society; and University of NSW.

For more information about the alliance, visit the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance website: www.workplacementalhealth.com.au