12 June Managing Mental Health in the Workplace June 12, 2018By Tais Lildaree General 0 Author: Cherry Liang Date: 12 Jun 2018 With increasing awareness that employee mental wellbeing improves productivity, reduces unplanned leave and errors at work, mental health in the workplace is moving to be a central focus for many organisations. During the Victoria professional development day held on the 23rd of March, Mpilwenhle (MP) Mthunzi of Sound Minds Consulting presented on the implications for managers when managing mental health in the workplace. Incidentally, Mpilwenhle is himself a graduate of the Health Management Internship Program. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016), one in five Australians experiences a mental illness each year. Depression currently is the leading cause of non-fatal disability nationally. These numbers highlighted the prevalence of this issue from a public health point of view. As for the impact on employer, Australian Human Rights Commission data suggested that on average, 3.2 days per worker are lost annually through workplace stress. Stress-related claims doubled in recent years to reach $10 billion per annual. A closer look at some of the evidence further reveals the size of this matter in health workplaces. Depression and pain are found to be major symptoms and also significantly associated with staff presenteeism in a large cross-sectional survey of 2500 nurses by Letvak et al in 2013. Many health services have employee assistance programs. Recognising common symptoms of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use in workplaces is the first step of getting support. It is important to understand that one of the key roles as a peer or a manager is to encourage and support affected individuals to seek professional advice. However, there are still social stigmas associated with mental illness. Barriers such as concerns about losing their jobs, confidentiality or fear and embarrassment might stop employees from seeking help. It is in this situation that the importance of establishing an open, non-judgmental approach locally within your working unit is shown. Brodie’s Law was introduced in 2011 after Brodie Panlock committed suicide due to intense workplace bullying. Individuals responsible for workplace bullying can now be charged with a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail. However, major concerns still exist. Large studies that revealed up to 40% of Victorian nurses and 54% of junior surgeons in Australia and New Zealand reported to be victims of workplace bullying. (Victoria Auditor General’s Office, 2016) The VAGO report called for strong sector-wide leadership for consistent implementation of parameters to address the risk of bullying and harassment, particularly around inadequacy in early intervention and formal complaints processes. I am aware of one recent initiative in this space. Western Health implemented a Workplace Issue Resolution tool to bridge the gap prior to a formal complaint process led by People and Culture Unit in 2017. Staff are able to contact trained Workplace Contact Officers to discuss workplace behaviour issues in a confidential, informal and anonymous manner. This support often acts as a second opinion in these critical moments and supports staff every in every step towards a resolution. The role of fostering resilience both in the self and others at workplace was also discussed in the professional development material. MP shared the four pillars model of personal resilience and practical tips on how to build and sustain resilience in a team. There is a fine line between constructive and motivating challenge and stress-inducing pressure. Recognising personal differences, as well as fostering a healthy work environment where support and solutions are available, will contribute to reducing the number of workplace mental health occurrences at a local level. As a sector, there is still a lot of work ahead to ensure a better and safer workplace for all health care workers. References Letvak S., Ruhm C. & Gupta S. (2012) Nurses’ presenteeism and its effect on self-reported quality of care and costs. American Journal of Nursing 112 (2), 30–38. McCray (2016) Building resilience in health and social care teams. Personnel Review 45(6): 1132-1155 Victorian Auditor General’s Office (VAGO) (2016) Bullying and Harassment in the Health Sector. 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