A new report estimates that approximately a third of Australian employees are living with a mental illness of some kind. On top of this, it’s also reported that almost half of people feel uncomfortable sharing their struggles with management.
With the numbers so high, it’s important that workplaces make efforts to care for the wellbeing of staff. This means creating a safe, open environment in which people feel comfortable sharing their mental health concerns. Here are our top tips for doing just this…
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Educate yourself on the symptoms and impacts of mental illness
To support people with mental illness, it only makes sense that you must first understand mental illness itself. This includes knowing what can cause it and what its symptoms are. This is why – as an employer – it’s important to take the time to educate yourself.
There are a number of ways you can do this; reading articles from trusted mental health organisations online, speaking with organisational mental health professionals or even doing a ‘mental health first aid’ course. This will help you become a more supportive employer and allow you to better understand what your staff may be dealing with on a personal level.
Encourage people to open up about their mental health
There is a huge stigma behind mental illness in the workplace. This is usually because employees are often worried about how their job may be affected if they wereto speak to someone about how they’re feeling. Feelings of shame and embarrassment can influence people to keep their feelings under wraps. Unfortunately, this often only makes things worse.
A mentally healthy workplace encourages their staff to speak about their feelings. It may be a situational issue ,such as, ‘I’m stressed about this meeting’. Or perhaps it’s part of a much bigger problem like depression or anxiety. Either way, being aware of how your team is doing allows you to provide them with the right support.
Building trust between you and your team is essential to making them feel comfortable talking to you. Developing professional relationships where empathy, compassion and a genuine care for the wellbeing of others is absolutely necessary when it comes to creating a mentally healthy workplace.
Offer the right support
It’s important to encourage anyone living with mental illness to get the professional help they need. While you can provide a listening ear, it’s important that they get the help of a trained mental health professional to overcome what they’re dealing with when they are ready to do so.
A good way to approach this subject is by simply asking, “do you think talking to a professional could help?” It’s normal for some people may be hesitant or nervous about the idea. In this case, be sure to remind them that therapy is a great way to overcome mental illness. Helping them find a psychologist who suits their needs can make them feel more positive about the process of getting help. Allowing your employees to take ‘mental health sick days’ by getting a doctors certificate is also a great initiative. This will allow them to practice some self-care during those times when they are struggling – without fearing any repercussions.
At the end of the day, however, different people choose to seek help at different times. So, if one of your employees is very hesitant to the idea of professional help, it’s best to not force the situation.
Check in with your team
Encouraging staff to open up is important, but it’s also necessary to be proactive about checking in with them. If you’ve noticed that one of your employees has seemed down, quiet or simply ‘not themselves’, have a quick chat with them about how they’re feeling.
This can be a great way to gauge whether something is wrong. From here, you can hopefully discuss with them what can be done to improve their situation. It might be something personal and completely unrelated to work. Or perhaps it’s the stress of a big project or a disagreement with a colleague that has got them down. Whatever it is, if you take the time to ask them about it, you can offer them the right support sooner rather than later.
Create a positive and encouraging workplace culture
No one wants to work in a negative, highly stressful, unhappy environment. After all, we spend so much of our time in the workplace. It only makes sense that how we feel when we’re there can impact our personal life, too.
A mentally healthy workplace culture is one that people feel good about working in. It’s made up of team members who genuinely respect and care for one another, offers support where it is needed and encourages personal and professional growth. While everyone is there to do their job, remember that staff wellbeing is an incredibly important part of any workplace.