Why a Proactive Approach to Mental Wellbeing is Best for Your Business & People
Mental health is frequently overlooked and underrated by Australian workplaces. Yet, according to research, mental illness is the leading cause of work disability and estimated to cost the global economy as much as AUD$23 trillion by 2030.
Almost 50% of all Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, according to the Black Dog Institute. And while 75% of people who get help see a noticeable improvement, more than half of all people with a mental health disorder do not access treatment at all.
Encouragingly, we may be starting to see a shift take place as the conversation gains traction. For example, NSW saw a decrease in suicides in 2020 – despite the year’s difficulties. At the same time, Lifeline reported that their call volumes increased by 20% during that year.
A key consideration for workplaces is to take a proactive approach to mental health rather than a reactive approach. Taking action at this point by throwing resources at your team members may be too little too late.
Awareness makes all the difference
People spend a significant portion of their lives at work, so the onus really is on workplaces to educate team members and create a safe space to discuss mental health.
MIEACT (Mental Illness Education ACT) is one non-profit organisation that is leading the way in this area, with a range of mental health programs designed specifically for workplaces and schools. HorizonOne was proud to support MIEACT at our 2020 Christmas event, raising $5,000 for their valuable initiatives.
“We educate the Canberra community on mental illness through powerful lived experience stories,” says Heidi Prowse, CEO of MIEACT. “When people hear these stories, they reflect on their own mental health and it builds empathy. We share practical steps they can take to build support for themselves, and also those around them who may be experiencing mental health concerns.
“Last year we held many sessions on leadership and self-care and the importance of creating a self-care environment. Managers should set examples by talking about self-care and actively taking time out for themselves. This empowers staff to be vigilant about their own self-care which can make a huge difference in the workplace.”
MIEACT offers a variety of workplace education programs, such as:
- Mental health 101
- Customised workplace presentations
- Stress Better program
- DoNOHarm program
“Mental Health 101 is ideal for workplaces to have during induction because it immediately creates a positive atmosphere around mental health. We also customise sessions for organisations where a particular mental health concern is more prevalent, such as PTSD.
“DoNOHarm is our signature program. It helps staff learn how to communicate to remove the stigma and encourage positive outcomes around mental health in the workplace.
“Exercising mental health is the same as exercising the body – it needs to be proactive and something we pay attention to every day, no matter where we are.”
Creating a plan to promote positive mental health
Heidi says people in the workplace often wait for something to go wrong before turning to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP), which is unfortunate.
“Ideally, staff should be encouraged to book a session every 6 months. Even if they are doing really well, it provides a safe place to offload and discuss strategies that will continue to support their mental health.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a proactive and positive culture in schools and workplaces where people feel safe to take time out, talk about mental health, and look at how their environment supports it.”
One of the initiatives MIEACT has for its own employees is a regular paid day off known as “wellbeing day”. This is an initiative we also have at HorizonOne. We call them “human days”.
Kate Mason, HorizonOne’s Digital Marketing Coordinator, says human days give staff a chance to recharge and take care of life admin without feeling guilty.
“People can take one day each quarter whenever they like. We also have an EAP which staff can access via an app which is completely anonymous and has great programs to help build mental resilience.”
Because physical health is important for mental health, HorizonOne implemented a health and wellbeing initiative that staff can tap into to help them stay mentally and physically healthy.
“Each week we have a boot camp where we do a range of cardio, weights and team building activities. This originally started as helping our team refocus on their physical fitness after coming out of COVID quarantine, but has continued weekly, and has seen a significant improvement in their overall approach to physical and mental fitness. For staff who want to exercise outside of work, they can claim reimbursement of expenses such as a gym membership or yoga classes.
“Our Culture Club is another important part of our workplace culture, where we might host a BBQ, have some drinks together on a Friday afternoon, or go for a hike. We make sure to have at least one activity each month. These activities help us build and strengthen relationships within the team which makes it easier to tell the person next to you if you’re having a bad day or a tough time.
“It all comes back to taking a pre-emptive, proactive approach to removing stigma and putting in place things that will build resilience. Research shows happy employees are much more productive and take an average 15 less sick days every year. But it’s about more than that. It’s about creating a relaxed, friendly and inclusive culture – somewhere people actually want to go to work every day.”
MIEACT have a wonderful initiative called “Pay it forward”. For every $300 spent on booking a workplace education program, MIEACT will reach 30 youths with free mental health education and publicly acknowledge your support.
You can also visit their website to find out how to donate or volunteer.
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Mental Illness Education ACT