Workplace mental health training for managers
A cluster randomised controlled trial
- Can mental health training for managers improve their knowledge, attitudes, confidence, and behaviour towards employees with mental health problems?
- Can mental health training for managers reduce sickness absence among their employees?
Mental illness continues to be one of the most rapidly growing causes of long-term sickness absence and labour market exclusion across developed countries, despite improved rates of detection and development of increasingly effective interventions. This has led many individuals to conclude that occupational outcomes for people with mental illness can only be improved by increased involvement of workplaces in support, managements, and rehabilitation plans.
Managers in the workplace have a key role in determining the occupational outcomes of workers who become unwell. However, many managers feel reluctant or under-skilled to contact an employee who is showing signs of mental ill health.
In order to address these issues, this study investigated the effect of mental health training on managers' knowledge, attitudes, confidence, and behaviour towards employees with mental health problems, and its effect on employee sickness absence.
History of the project
Evidence suggests that managers value mental health training initiatives and feel more confident in discussing these matters after receiving training. Some research evidence exists to suggest employees of managers who have received mental health training might have reduced levels of psychological distress and greater wellbeing.
However, to date, the key question of whether manager mental health training reduces the occupational impact of mental disorders and reduces sickness absence has remained unanswered.
One pilot study has assessed the effect of online manager mental health training on the sickness absence of employees, but no significant effect on this objective occupational outcome was found.
This study was a cluster randomised controlled trial within a large Australian fire and rescue service, with a 6-month follow-up.
Managers were randomly assigned to either a 4-hour face-to-face RESPECT mental health training program or a wait-list control group. Firefighters supervised by each managers were included in the study via their sickness absence records.
The training was provided by either a clinical psychologist or a consultant psychiatrist from the Black Dog Institute, with experience in mental health-related educational programs for workplace settings.
NSW Health and Employers Mutual Ltd
This 4-hour mental health training program led to a significant reduction in sickness absence among the managers' employees. It also improved managers' confidence in and their likelihood of contacting employees off work due to mental health problems.