Today is World Mental Health Day. Navigating mental health in the workplace can be a challenge if you don’t know who or where to go to for support.
Statistically speaking, one in every five Australians are expected to experience a mental health problem at one point in their lives — that is about four million people every year. This means every Australian is likely to be affected by mental illness, whether directly or indirectly.
To assist Ability Options in delivering a mentally healthy workplace for our people, we partnered with Veretis in October 2021 to provide support through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Annie, a Veretis Clinician, said a mentally healthy workplace should be something everyone looks for in an employer.
She said not taking care of our mental health in the workplace can stop peak performance and increase symptoms that can affect our day-to-day, impact our colleagues and families at home.
“Both peak performance in the workplace and a harmonious effective culture rely on individuals operating within their ‘window of tolerance’. This means that mental health and wellbeing provides people with the space to be their best selves, and access creative thinking, task completion and collaboration to the best of their ability,” she said.
“A mentally healthy workplace looks like a place with regular communication and ‘check ins’ around workload and coping. This can mean ideally divvying tasks in a way that is flexible, effective and retains accountability.
“If adjustments need to be made to deadlines or if they are not possible, communication is clear, respected and supported with a collaborative effort to distribute the tasks until the job is done.”
R U OK? Day was held on Thursday, 8 September; it’s a day that encourages people to ask each other, “are you okay?”. Annie says, while it is an important date in the calendar for mental health, people should be asking that vital question whenever they can.
“I would encourage people to ask that question, if they feel comfortable, in a private and quiet space in a one-on-one setting. This can build trust and help someone feel safe,” she said.
“If you don’t feel comfortable asking that question to a colleague, but are worried about them, then you can escalate your concern as appropriate in your workplace. At the same feel free to ask the person whether they would like to talk to you or someone else.”
According to headspace, a national youth mental health foundation, “mental health” is a general term that refers to many conditions that affect behaviour and feelings and can be seen as a spectrum.
On one end of this spectrum is ‘mentally healthy’. Here, a person feels able to approach all aspects of life with comfort and involvement and is able to bounce back when life’s challenges come along.
On the other end is ‘mental illness’. Conditions like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and others like them can affect how a person thinks, feels, behaves and interacts with others around them.
In between these two ends is a ‘coping area’, where people might feel some pressure but are doing OK, and a ‘difficulties area’ where people might feel like they aren’t doing so well.
Regardless of where you sit on this spectrum, it is important to check in with yourself and those around you if you notice symptoms of mental illness, which you can read about here.
To find out more about World Mental Health Day, click here.
To read more about how you can ask someone “are you okay?”, click here.