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 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 Scott’s view of himself and his colleagues view of him Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:
- Scott is driving everyone away with his negativity and doesn’t want our help – Part of the symptoms of depression is low self-worth. Whilst Scott wouldn’t expect anyone to support him as he is holding on to his limiting beliefs about himself, he deserves our support.
- Plenty of people go through divorce, Scott needs to get on with it – Whilst divorce and separation are common in Australia, Scott’s ability to cope with it is impacted by the brain chemical changes of depression. He needs treatment to enable him to cope with his life changes.
- Scott is just overweight. If he lost some weight, he would be better off – Scott needs a doctor driver treatment plan that has effective interventions to assist Scott to gain greater control over his mental and physical health.
- Scott needs to toughen up, after all half the population go through a divorce – Mental illness is not a weakness. It is due to a range of social, genetic biological and environmental factors and it is treatable.
- Scott just needs to “wake up to himself” – Scott 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 should see depression as a chemical imbalance in our brain which needs medical treatment.
- We need to sack Scott as he is having a bad effect on morale– With appropriate treatment Scott should manage his depression and return to his pre illness levels of mood and self-worth.
Engage in regular, simple, informal conversations help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Scott is. Find the time to engage Scott about the Tigers, share what you are watching on Netflix, ask about Scott’s extended family and how they are going.
It is important that you find the right time to talk to Scott about his mental health. Not whilst discussing his performance or operational issues. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Scott feels comfortable. For example, this is unlikely to be in your office. Ask open questions and give Scott time to respond. If you are unsure on how to say, just be your authentic self and be sincere when you ask if he is OK. Refer to pages on “I know Scott” for further examples on how to start the conversation.
Refer Scott for help through:
- Your EAP service.
- Supporting him to visit his GP.
- Supporting him with rostering/workplace adjustments/referrals to social groups/ walking group and support to lose weight.
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