Events like R U Okay? Day are important in highlighting mental health, but we need to go beyond a single day. Here HRM presents 12 ideas – one for each month of the year.
It’s R U Okay? Day today The annual awareness day has sparked important (and often life changing) conversations about mental health and suicide prevention.
Last year, we published an article titled ‘Hope you were you okay?,’ in an effort to highlight the fact that these conversations shouldn’t be confined to a single day.
In that spirit, here’s a wrapup of some of the mental health related articles we’ve published in the past. Looking to the year ahead, here are 12 resources, stories or pieces of advice (one for each month) that you can take back to your workplace.
1. Staying at work during poor mental health is sometimes best
We start with this very popular article from Fay Jackson, former deputy commissioner for the NSW Mental Health Commission and general manager of inclusion at Flourish Australia. Jackson recounts her experiences of dealing with her psychosis during work, and the three main things that help her: having supportive colleagues, having the option to remain at work during her recovery stages and implementing her ‘personal situation plan’ (more on that below).
2. Creating a personal situation plan
Following the success of Jackson’s article above, HRM got in touch with her to take a deep dive into the process of creating and implementing a personal situation plan – a physical plan that you can pass on to a colleague or manager when you feel your mental health is slipping.
While everyone’s plans will look different, Jackson shared some of the elements in her own plan and offered advice for HR professionals on best practice.
3. Identifying changes in behaviour
Ninety-three per cent of employees would rather lie to their managers and pretend they’re suffering from an “embarrassing” physical health condition (like food poisoning) than admit to experiencing a negative shift in their mental state, according to a report from Allianz Australia.
If you notice an employee has dramatically changed how they take personal leave, it might be a sign that you should reach out and check in.
4. Is the cause another employee?
If a staff member is suddenly becoming withdrawn, it’s natural to think they might have something going on in their personal life, but sometimes work or certain colleagues are the root cause. In our popular article on workplace gaslighting, we spoke with a psychologist about how to recognise workplace gaslighting.
5. Zero in on men’s mental health
It’s well documented that men often have a tougher time reaching out when going through poor mental health moments. This article breaks down the important steps HR should take to help their male workforce to break down barriers and do away with stigmas.
6. Physical health matters too
Encouraging staff to remain physically healthy can have a positive knock-on effect. This article looks at some interesting and unique ways you can incentivise your staff to lead a physically healthy lifestyle.
7. Mentally healthy workplaces don’t need to cost a lot
In a 2017 article, we outlined some cost-effective ways to cultivate a mentally healthy workplace, which in turn increases productivity and decreases turnover and absenteeism.
8. HR can make large-scale changes
For the final stage of her AHRI Practicing Certification program, Julie Dawson CPHR took her organisations fairly flimsy wellbeing program and transformed it into a proactive and useful, organisation-wide mental health strategy. Click through to see how she did it.
9. Reduce employee burnout
New research from Gartner suggests that a major reason people are thinking of quitting their jobs is because they’re burning out. With the World Health Organisation citing burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” earlier this year, it’s worth taking the time to identify and remedy stress levels in the workplace.
10. Learn from those who’ve been there
In 2017, we published a thought-provoking article from journalist Alan Stokes, who shared his experience of being on the verge of taking his own life and offered advice on how HR can take the lead on mental health strategies.
11. Learn how to talk about suicide at work
Suicide is an extremely tough topic to discuss in any scenario, let alone in the workplace. This article takes a deep dive into why this topic is an important one in demystifying the act and helping to prevent future acts from occurring.
12. Have a plan in place when things change
Often the work we do is a pillar of our sense of identity. When drastic changes occur in staff’s personal lives – for example, an accident that leaves someone wheel-chair bound or coming out as gay – our workplaces and managers need to make sure there are plans in place to ensure staff are able to transition back into the workforce and find their ‘new’ identity. People who’ve experienced shifting identities in the workplace share their stories.
We will leave you on a note from Stephen Dowling, an AHRI fellow, a 40 year member and an RU OKay? Day ambassador.
“Caring for the people you work with is one of the greatest things you can do to support each other. It breaks down mental health stigma and delivers on the health and safety promise we all make to each other. Having an R U OK? conversation doesn’t have to be complicated. You simply need to show you care and use the helpful RU OK? 4-step conversation process: ASK: LISTEN: ENCOURAGE ACTION: CHECK IN.
“If someone confirms they’ve been struggling, suggest they talk to their doctor, call EAP (Employee Assistance Program), or access support from organisations like Beyond Blue, SANE, or Lifeline. Starting a conversation is a huge step forward, but sometimes the conversation can become too big for us to help in an effective way. If you have serious concerns that the person may be considering self-harm seek advice, you can contact: Suicide Callback Service – 1300 659 467, Lifeline – 13 11 14; and R U OK?.”