I Manage Brenda Constantly in chaos

The days of not talking about mental health are long behind us. Our understanding of the relationship between mental health, physical health and performance at work is very clear. As a supervisor we need to create a work environment that supports and encourages open, honest conversations with our staff.

Why? What’s in it for you as an employer/supervisor?

  • Good mental health supports us to be more resilient and cope with stress. The passenger transport industry needs drivers, mechanics and support staff that are strong problem solvers and resilient to ensure we deal with the varying nature of our work every day.
  • A supportive workplace reduces absenteeism and decreases turnover. We know how hard it is to get good staff, a mentally healthy workplace ensures you keep them.
  • A mentally healthy workplace has been shown to improve decision making, confidence and productivity.
  • We meet our regulatory obligations by addressing psychosocial risks in our workplace.

Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a large part of your role as a supervisor. We know that the most influential person in any workplace with respect to a worker’s health and safety is their front-line supervisor. As 1 in 6 Australian workers suffer from a mental health condition it is likely that any one of your staff is currently experiencing symptoms.

It is very common for Anxiety and Depression to be experienced as the same time. Steps to build a safe and supportive environment include:


Understand and challenge your own biases and stigmas. There is often a lack of understanding of mental health conditions in your workplace, and stigma and myths that would be impacting on Brenda’s view of herself and her colleagues view of her Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:

  • Brenda is inefficient and needs to get better to prioritise her time – Anxiety and Depression impact on workers concentration and problem solving. She needs treatment to assist her and a supportive employer who can organise her tasks, so she is required only to do one task at a time and feel successful.
  • Brenda just needs a holiday – Treatment needs to be driven by her GP and will include a range of options including work tasks that are achievable and within her current capacity.
  • Brenda needs to toughen up, COVID has been hard on everyone, and no-one enjoys taking complaints all day – Mental illness is not a weakness. It is due to a range of social, genetic biological and environmental factors and requires specific treatment prescribed by a GP.
  • We need to sack Brenda as she is burnt out and will never be back to her old self – With appropriate treatment Brenda should recover from her anxiety and depression and return to her pre illness levels of productivity.


Engage in regular, simple, informal conversations that help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Brenda is. Find the time to ask about her life away from work, her interests, and responsibilities.


It is important that you find the right time to talk to Brenda about her mental health. Not her poor performance or operational issues. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Brenda feels comfortable. For example, this is unlikely to be in your office. Make sure you have enough time to ask open questions and give her time to respond. If you are unsure of what to say, just be your authentic self and be sincere when you ask, “are you ok” (see further conversation notes from “I know Brenda” page).


Refer Brenda for help through:

  • Your EAP service.
  • Suggesting she visit this signal for help webpage.
  • Support her with workplace adjustments such as removing her from complaints handling, providing structure to her day to enable her complete one task at a time.


Anxiety and depression can be successfully treated. By understanding what these are you can provide the necessary support and direction to your team on accessing a treatment that supports them. To learn more about treatment options for anxiety & depression, please click here.


Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/mental-health

Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, visit https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/emergency-help/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/

If you want to talk to someone for free you can

Mindspot https://www.mindspot.org.au

Living with a mental health condition looks different for everyone.
Click on the profiles below to understand what experiencing mental health issues might look like in your workplace, and how to get help.