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 so it is likely that any one of your staff is currently experiencing symptoms. Steps for you to build a safe and supportive work 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 Jenny’s view of herself and her colleagues view of her. Understand that a symptom of Depression can be self-loathing and as a result Jenny may not feel worthwhile of your support.
Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:
- Jenny is just a loner and doesn’t like people – A symptom of depression is social isolation. It is important that we support Jenny to increase her social interactions. As examples, support her to attend the sausage sizzle by making it at the end of her shift and close to where she signs off, or by walking with her into the space to feel supported.
- Jenny enjoys taking all the runs no one else wants – It is important to understand people’s motivation and not just assume. All staff enjoy feeling appreciated and rewarded.
- It suits me that Jenny takes the hard to allocate runs and never complains, I don’t want that to change – We have an obligation to ensure everyone is healthy at work and that includes mental health.
Don’t use criticism or guilt to get them to tell you. If Jenny doesn’t want to talk, invite her to talk to you when she is ready. It is not your role to be a health professional, but you could play a role to help Jenny attend her Dr to gain the right treatment. The best support might be making an appointment for her and offering to drive and wait for her.
Engage in Support regular, simple, informal conversations to help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. Find time to have these conversations with Jenny. Ask about her weekend, her garden, her animals as a way of connecting.
It is important that you find the right time to talk to Jenny about her mental health. Not about operational issues or her performance. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Jenny feels comfortable. For example, this is unlikely to be in your office. Make sure you have time and are free from interruptions to ask open questions and give Jenny time to respond. Let her know that you are here to listen when she is ready. 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 ideas under “I know Jenny” page.
Refer Jenny for help through:
- Your EAP service.
- Supporting her to visit her GP.
- Supporting her with workplace modification and adjustments such as with instructions in writing rather than verbal, allocation to more enjoyable runs.
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 depression, please click here.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION?
Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:
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/
If you want to talk to someone for free you can
- Call Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Text Lifeline – 0477 13 11 14
- Lifeline online chat https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat