Why mental health training is the most important management skill you've never been taught: Explained
Published: 8 April, 2019
Despite the growing awareness of mental ill-health, 50% of managers believe no-one in their workplace is affected. It is estimated that 1 in 6 working age people will be struggling at any one point in time, so although it’s not always obvious, it is likely that mental ill-health will be present in your workplace at some point.
As a manager, promoting workplace wellbeing is a way of future-proofing your business – it helps to prevent future absence and boost productivity down the track.
“Workers are the biggest asset a business has. It’s smart to manage for wellbeing in a way that will also deliver measurable results,” says Marian Spencer, Head of People, Operations & Culture at The Black Dog Institute.
Having a mentally healthy workplace is a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining quality staff, promoting productivity and reducing absence.
How much does mental ill-health cost Australian business?
According to the Investing to Save report, developed by Mental Health Australia and KPMG, mental illness is the leading cause of long-term sickness absence in Australia, costing approximately $12 billion in absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased turnover rates and compensation claims each year.
Research from beyondblue indicates roughly 1 in 5 people take time off work each year due to feeling mentally unwell and The Workplace Mental Health Institute reports 3-4 sick days are taken each month for untreated depression alone.
It is estimated that a further one-sixth of the population will be dealing with symptoms associated with mental ill-health – such as worry, sleep problems and fatigue – at any one point in time.
While not meeting criteria for a diagnosed mental illness, these symptoms affect your workers’ ability to function productively at work.
The social and economic burden of mental-ill health has become so great that the Federal Government recently announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health, with the first meeting held on 31st January.
In the workplace context, good mental health is really about people being at their peak and doing their best work. According to a review by Black Dog Institute, UNSW Sydney and beyondblue, workplaces that support the mental health of all employees can increase employee engagement & productivity.
How do we manage for mental health?
A research report developed by Allianz Australia reported that 78% of people surveyed were concerned about disclosing a mental health condition to their employer because of a fear of job loss and negative perceptions. Many believe their managers are more likely to believe they need to take time off if they say they are suffering from a cold or flu rather than stress or anxiety.
This situation makes it more difficult to manage for mental health, especially when on the surface your workers seem to be ‘doing fine’. Open dialogue about mental health needs to be present for change to occur – but as managers, are we equipped to have these conversations if we’ve never been taught how?
It’s not surprising that many managers may feel anxious about their ability to sit down with employees, ask them personal questions about their mental health, and confidently provide measured advice about how the individual and workplace can work together to address issues.
Expert training is particularly critical here. It can increase awareness of how managers might support their teams as well as giving them the confidence to adequately manage mental health discussions.
People leaders play a pivotal role in fostering the wellbeing of their teams through the behaviours they model, and their ability to observe and act when they notice that team members are struggling. They also play a key role in successfully integrating team members back into work after a period of sickness-related absence.
“The senior people in an organisation have a major role in setting the priorities for an organisation and for setting the culture as to where employee mental health sits in the hierarchy of concerns,” says Associate Professor Samuel Harvey, who leads the Workplace Mental Health Research Program at Black Dog Institute.
Where to from here?
An effectively delivered, evidence-based mental health program can have a lasting positive impact on both the productivity of your business and the lives of the people working around you.
In partnership with the NSW Government, Black Dog Institute is currently providing free mental health training for 3,600 managers working in high risk industries across both Sydney Metro and Gosford/Wyong areas. See if your business is eligible here.
If your business does not qualify, we have a range of fee-for-service workplace mental health programs which can be delivered across Australia. Our programs are built on current, proven research and are delivered by fully qualified facilitators. Each program is customised for the individual business, taking your specific needs and training budget into account. Read more here.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of mentally healthy workplaces you can read more about workplace wellbeing or download our free toolkit.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)