A Guest Post by icare

We know that mental health is becoming an increasingly important topic when it comes to keeping our people safe at work. We’re hearing so much about it in the media, the Productivity Commission is looking at the effect mental health has more generally on our economy and productivity, the Victorian Royal Commission is looking at improving Victoria’s mental health services and we’ve seen a boost to government spending on mental health in the Federal Budget.

We’ve also seen improved visibility of mental health support services and an increasing focus on promoting good mental health in our community. We all have the ability to positively impact mental health, both as an individual and as a business, and we all want to play our part, but it can be challenging to know where to start.

With so much information now available and so many support services to draw on, it can be overwhelming for employers to know how best to approach building and maintaining a mentally healthy workplace. That’s where it’s important for employers to take a step back and take the time to adopt a strategic, rather than ad hoc approach. When developing strategies about mental health in the workplace it is important that employers don’t just focus on what poor mental health looks like. It is equally important to focus on what good mental health looks like and to considers how to protect and promote good mental health well into the future.

icare’s Injury Prevention Manager Jennifer Cameron believes the best place to start is simply by being curious.

“Being like a detective is the best way to start your journey towards creating a mentally healthy workplace. It’s important to find out what is going on and how work tasks and processes are impacting the health of employees. Existing data, such as reported hazards, claims data, or the results of employee engagement or culture surveys are a good place to start.

Qualitative research through interviews or focus groups with your people is also important in helping you get a deeper understanding of what’s working and what’s not. After that it’s about setting a vision and targets and starting with what is most impactful. This needs to be done in a consultative and collaborative way and be backed by leadership support”

she explained.

icare is partnering with NSW businesses to help them create mentally healthy workplaces. Recent initiatives include the delivery of Mental Health First Aid training and the provision of initial funding for the Ahead for Business website and the Black Dog Institute through the icare Foundation. icare also plans to pilot a workshop on creating mentally healthy workplaces this October as part of World Mental Health Day.

Mental Health First Aid training looks at signs and symptoms associated with common mental health illnesses, as well as how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem using a practical, evidence-based Action Plan.

Funded by the icare Foundation and developed by Everymind, the Ahead for Business website is designed specifically for small business owners to provide them with access to practical resources and tools to improve the mental health and wellbeing for themselves and their staff.

The Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces workshop will provide employers with the framework to undertake a situational analysis of risk factors in their own workplace that may contribute to promoting poor mental health and help them with their approach to developing a tailored strategy to address these.
Ms Cameron, along with icare’s Mental Health Claims Leader Jade Alexander, regularly present to employer and industry groups on mental health in the workplace, providing them with an introduction to the concepts of trauma and how neurobiology contributes to an individual’s experience of psychological injury.

“Responding to psychological injury is particularly challenging for employers. Psychological injury is less tangible than a physical injury and employers can easily struggle with establishing and/or sustaining positive relationships with their workers when there is less concrete evidence about the nature of the injury”

says Ms Alexander.

More recently, icare has developed an early intervention, practical tool for employers to help them better engage with their workers following a psychological injury. It takes the form of a checklist for employers to ensure they are providing the right kind of support at the right time. Endorsed by Griffith University, the checklist takes an evidence-based approach and includes reference links to further research and articles for employers who wish to read more on this important topic.

“The Checklist provides employers with step-by-step, practical tools for engaging with workers with psychological injury during the acute injury phase and/or the liability determination period. It arms employers with evidenced-based techniques which decrease the likelihood of workers becoming triggered and creates an environment that encourages recovery and return to work”

says Ms Alexander.

Feedback on the tool has been overwhelmingly positive with employers now calling for the ‘next step’. In response, the icare Mental Health Team are designing an Employer Education Tool that teaches employers how to have these difficult conversations with employees. For example: how does an employer demonstrate support in the absence of traditional evidence, or what are some tips for de-escalating distress for a worker who has become emotional during a scheduled employer contact.

“The tool is also designed to give employers the confidence and competence for supporting those with a psychological injury and help them build a positive workplace culture around psychological wellness”

she added.

icare is keen to partner with more businesses who need support with building and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. For more details visit www.icare.nsw.gov.au/prevention 

1. Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace – Return on Investment Analysis, PwC Australia, 2014
2. The Australian Workplace Barometer: Report on psychosocial safety climate and worker health in Australia, Safe Work Australia, 2012

We are incredibly honoured to have icare as a Thought Leader Partner for The Thriving Workplace event next month! In their session, Jen Cameron and Jade Alexander will be sharing an unique insight into what’s actually happening in workplaces across New South Wales.

Backed by current data on workplace psychological injuries in NSW and Australia, and insights from icare mental health specialists, this session will help leaders:

  • Understand the extent and trends of workplace psychological injuries
  • Understand what cultures support psychological health and safety
  • Gain insight from icare’s Respect & Resilience (occupational violence) research
  • Challenge the stigma around mental health
  • Develop strategies that encourage early return to work when a psychological injury occurs.

Less than 5 weeks to go!


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