I Manage Russell The nice old bloke

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 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 Russell’s’ view himself and his colleagues view of him. Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:

  • Russell is a lovely old bloke who is a good driver and therefore won’t have any problems – Our responsibility as employers is to provide a safe workplace. This includes mental health safety and as a result we need to check and assess Russell’s psychological safety at work.
  • Russell needs to toughen up, we can’t take what passengers say personally – Russell needs support and appropriate treatment from a treating health practitioner to address his anxiety.
  • Maybe Russell is too old to work – Work is an important part of ageing and Russell should continue to work whilst he has the necessary skills and abilities. With appropriate treatment Russell should recover from his anxiety and be a valued member of the team for a long period of time


Engage is regular, simple, informal conversations to help build a sense of belonging and connectedness and provide the opportunity to ask more personal questions. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Russell is. Find the time to ask about Russell’s favourite sport, share what you are watching on Netflix, ask about Russell’s family and how they are going.


It is important that you find the right time to talk to Russell about his mental health. Not about operational issues or his performance. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Russell feels comfortable. For example, this is unlikely to be in your office. Make sure you have enough time, are free from distraction and ask open questions and give Russell time to respond. If you are unsure of what to say, be authentic and sincere when you ask, “Are you ok?”. For further ideas on what to say, see “I know Russell” section.


Refer Russell for help through:

  • Your EAP service.
  • Supporting him to visit his GP.
  • Supporting him through workplace adjustments support him with rostering/workplace adjustments such as charter work to avoid teenagers.


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.


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/

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

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.