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 of either anxiety or depression.
Steps to build a safe and supportive mentally healthy workplace 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 Mario’s view of himself and his colleagues view of him.
Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:
- Mario is just cranky, and he will never change– Mario’s anger is for a reason, try to understand what that reason is and how you can support him and what he can do to manage it to control his symptoms with help from health professionals.
- Mario needs to take a chill pill –Mental illness is not a weakness nor is it a matter of taking a deep breath. It is due to a range of social, genetic biological and environmental factors that requires professional support.
- Mario just needs to “wake up to himself”- Mario needs appropriate treatment to assist him. If he had high blood pressure, we wouldn’t blame him and expect him to pull himself out of hypertension.
- We need to sack Mario as he is bad for morale – With appropriate treatment Mario should have greater control over his emotions/anger and behave in a more appropriate manner in the workplace.
Engage in Support regular, simple, informal conversations to help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Mario is. Find the time to ask about Mario’s favourite sport, share what you are watching on Netflix, ask about Mario’s family and how they are going.
It is important that you find the right time to talk to Mario about his mental health. Not operational issues or his performance as he may remind you, he is one of your best drivers. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Mario feels comfortable. For example, this is unlikely to be in your office. Make sure you have enough time without interruptions to ask open questions and give Mario 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 Mario?”. For further ideas on conversation starters, see the “I know Mario” page.
Refer Mario for help through:
- Your EAP service.
- Encourage him to visit this signal for help webpage.
- You may also offer to attend his doctor with him to support.
Anxiety 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 please click here.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION?
Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:
Mensline https://mensline.org.au This is a free, confidential online and telephone counselling service for men.
Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
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