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Addressing mental illness in the workplace is becoming an increasing imperative for employers.

Just this year, an Australian study found mental illness to be the leading cause of extended sick leave for workers, eclipsing back pain as the number one reason employees are unable to come into work.

More workplaces are acknowledging this issue and seeking new ways to support employees and reduce the stress that sometimes comes with the job.

Based in Illawarra, private healthcare provider Peoplecare realised the escalation of workplace stress and called for greater focus on mental health in their workplace.

Peoplecare established the Mental Health in the Workplace program to encourage their employees to maintain good mental health. As a result, 82 per cent of employees at Peoplecare said that their workplace stress is manageable and the Mental Health in the Workplace program is nominated for a 2017 AHRI Award.

 Maree Morgan-Monk, Head of People & Culture

Maree Morgan-Monk, Head of People & Culture

 

Maree Morgan-Monk, Head of People & Culture said that the program was triggered in 2015 after positive employee feedback to an initiative held on R U OK? Day. A dedicated space was created in the workplace to encourage employees to Phone a friend and talk about mental health.

Two years later, the Mental Health in the Workplace program has grown as the number of employees at Peoplecare continues to grow.

The program includes an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), offering employees and their family members four counselling sessions per year, without charge and their Safe Work Method Statement explicitly addresses workplace stress, reducing stigma and recognising workplace stress can become a serious risk to health.

Some employees have been trained as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Officers to assist others in the workplace who are experiencing stress; all employees are encouraged to approach MHFA Officers if they need assistance for a mental health issue.

Ms Morgan-Monk said the program focuses on giving employees the skills to deal with mental health challenges, whether it is work-related or not.

“Our Mental Health in the Workplace program is centred around equipping our Peoplecarers with the tools, skills and support to face any mental challenges at work and in life,” said Ms Morgan-Monk.

“We are expanding that further into developing a mental fitness program designed to proactively build resilience through mindfulness and relaxation techniques as well as providing external expert training in the areas parenting and financial literacy which typically can cause additional stress to our daily lives.”

Peoplecare are also exploring giving employees “mind-breaks” to give them a chance to relax their mind at work and talks on parenting for employees with children.


DID YOU KNOW?

Our research has found 14% of Australian workers have suffered a mental or physical health decline as a direct result of their work (2016 Snapshot).