World Mental Health Week should enjoy a bigger spotlight than any other year. Few countries in the world have avoided the pandemic and spared its citizens the mental health impacts associated with lockdown and economic uncertainty. As the pandemic continues, the toll on people’s mental health worsens.
Mental illness statistics in Australia will surprise many people as they don’t realise the extent of the problem. One in five Australians are affected by mental health illness annually but many don’t seek help. Workplaces around the world will use Mental Health Week to increase awareness and put in place measures to help employees with their mental health. Here are a few ideas you can implement in your workplace throughout the entire month.
Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace
This year the theme for Mental Health Week is Building Healthy Communities. For many adults, their most important (or only) community is their work colleagues. Some people now working from home may feel they have lost their work community. Even if workers aren’t in the same location, there are ways to build a healthy virtual work community.
Work is the main cause of poor mental health for many. Bullying, harassment, an unrelenting workload, a high risk to physical safety, unsuitable tasks to competency and stress are some of the causes.
By making managers and employees more aware of mental health in the workplace, everyone can work together to reduce the risks and create a healthy workplace. Show your support for your colleagues’ mental health by celebrating Mental Health Week and carrying out activities throughout the entire month.
Stop the Stigma Amongst Employees
Let employees know that supporting Mental Health Week is designed to reduce the stigma. Employees should feel comfortable to speak up and talk to someone about their mental health and to ask colleagues how they’re feeling.
Remind employees they have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) all year to access professional mental health support.
Your organisation can support the cause by buying all staff a Mental Health Awareness ribbon and encourage them to wear it for the month. Alternatively, ask everyone to wear something green as a symbol for mental illness.
Host a Mental Health Morning Tea
Choose a day to host morning tea and invite staff to take a break from work to chat. Food is a great way to bring everyone together! If you have staff working from home, encourage them to take a longer break for morning tea and talk to colleagues online. You can make the morning tea extra special by ordering cupcakes featuring the green Mental Health Awareness ribbon. If morning tea is difficult for everyone to stop and have a break, consider making it a lunch.
Run Information Sessions
Some people are intimidated about the thought of helping someone. They’re reluctant to ask if someone is ok because they don’t know how to respond if the person says they’re struggling.
Organisations can give staff the tools they need by running information sessions. The R U Ok website provides good resources on reaching out. You can bring in guest speakers, record the sessions to make them available on the intranet to review later.
Different themed sessions can help with mental health in the workplace and at home. Sessions can include information on monitoring your stress levels, handling stressful situations with your teenager, relaxation techniques, checking in on friends and family and tips on looking after your mental health. The more information employees have, the better able they are to help themselves and the people around them.
Hold a Wellness Event
Even if people understand the importance of looking after their mental health, they don’t always know what to do. A lunchtime event or series of events can give employees tips and techniques for relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, good nutrition, and exercise.
Encourage Others to Join In
Show your support for mental health by spreading the word and encouraging other businesses to do the same.
Email Signatures - Change your email signatures to include a reference to Mental Health Week and keep it there for the entire month.
Social Media – Tell your followers the initiatives you have planned and during the week include a few posts of staff engaged in the activities. Continue themes throughout the entire month to help reach a wider audience.
Website – Make a note of Mental Health Week and tell customers what you’re doing to show support.
Messages on Hold – Change your phone’s message on hold to include a message about seeking help for any mental health issues.
Decorate the Office – Start the conversation with green balloons and streamers.
Return on Investment (ROI)
The time and money spent on looking after the mental health of employees has an excellent return on investment. An employee who takes time off for their mental health is often away from work longer than someone recovering from a physical injury. Encouraging staff to seek assistance early and to resolve disputes or situations that can become a mental health issue is the best way to have a happy workplace and to avoid expensive workers compensation claims.
The Australian Institute of Health and Safety puts the ROI for mental health programs in place for one year at $1.62 for every dollar spent according to international research. When organisations keep programs in place for three or more years, this figure climbs to $2.18 for every dollar spent.
Mental Health Week – State by State
Every state and territory in Australia has an event to support Mental Health Week. Some offer small grants, awards, events, digital resources to download and ideas. Check out what you state or territory has on offer to support mental health awareness this year.
It takes more than one week a year to support positive mental health. Use the awareness of mental health week to develop a plan for implementing initiatives that can continue throughout the year to support mental health in your workplace.
Contact PeopleSense by Altius on 1300 307 912 or (08) 9388 9000, or contact us online.