The work issue that can’t be ignored

Tuesday, 10 October 2017, 10:27:18 AM. THIS World Mental Health Day, employers and employees alike are urged to rethink how they approach this issue in the workplace.

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CAREER COVER construction site

THIS World Mental Health Day, employers and employees alike are urged to rethink how they approach this issue in the workplace.

For employers, it’s about leading by example, ensuring employees are comfortable having open conversation and offering help to those who need it.

For employees, it’s about finding an employer with good mental health policy, supportive colleagues and looking after themselves to avoid issues such as burnout or stress, which can contribute to mental illness.

One in five Australians aged 16 to 85 experience a mental illness in any given year, a survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

It affects a large number of people so cannot be ignored.

Nicole Dwyer, chief executive of employment services provider Workskil Australia, says her organisation is increasingly assisting people with mental health illness. The organisation’s Disability Employment Services team works closely with jobseekers and employers to ensure the right support mechanisms are in place.

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Nicole Dwyer, of Workskil Australia, says mental health should not be a barrier. Picture: James Elsby Source: News Corp Australia

“Employers are generally more understanding of the specific issues facing workers with mental illness,” she says.

“The most progressive employers have established programs and policies in place that are helping reduce the stigma.

“Mental health should not be a barrier to employment, however there are still a lot of hurdles facing jobseekers with mental illness and those already in work.”

Dwyer says unemployment and financial worries can lead to anxiety and depression among some jobseekers, while mounting workload pressure can be a major form of stress for those in work.

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“Jobseekers and employees should feel comfortable discussing mental health with their supervisors and employers just as they would a physical disability,” she says.

“It’s more common now for workplaces to have an Employee Assistance Program whereby workers can access free confidential counselling services.

“In reality every employer at some stage would have been faced with a temporary or longer term mental health issue involving an employee. For employers, it’s really about listening and understanding. If you notice a change in an employee’s behaviour don’t be afraid to ask if they’re okay.”

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BADGE Group business manager Nick Abley, centre, with Rick Kerrison and Matt Bartel at the Adelaide Festival Centre development site. Picture: Matt Turner Source: News Corp Australia

Commercial construction company BADGE has an Employee Assistance Program that allows any employee or a member of their family to have 24-7 access to free and confidential sessions with a professional counsellor.

Group business manager Nick Abley says BADGE strives to create a workplace that’s inclusive and supportive of all its employees.

“Like any employer, we have staff who at times may struggle with their mental wellbeing,” he says.

“We want all our staff to feel comfortable speaking with their colleagues and supervisors about any personal issues they may be dealing with.

“The mental wellbeing of our staff is top priority.

“It’s an issue very close to our hearts as we lost a colleague last year and his death was a shock to all of us.”

Ably says staff are also encouraged to undertake mental health awareness training with industry organisation Mates In Construction, and the company regularly posts articles on mental health and wellbeing on its group intranet.

Flexible working arrangements are also available for employees that require support.

BADGE employs about 240 people across Adelaide, Brisbane, Maroochydore and Perth and is currently recruiting.


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