While many employers are alive to addressing mental health for their people, there is a long way to go before most organisations reach a level of safety maturity in this space, according to law firm Maddocks.
Mentally healthy workplaces involve leaders understanding the mental health hazards and risk and taking steps to address them.
Unfortunately, some employers are still in the “meditation, fruit bowl and EAP” stage which – while nice to have – won’t mean much if employees are dealing with challenging behaviour, fatigue, poor job design and other risks such as vicarious trauma, said Catherine Dunlop, a partner in the employment, safety & people practice at Maddocks.
The biggest challenge for many employers is moving away from a mostly reactive approach to dealing with mental health where EAP is offered, to thinking about prevention and what is needed to promote good mental health.
“Employers need to do three things,” said Dunlop, who was speaking ahead of a conference on integrated approaches to workplace mental health, which will be held in March 2020 in Sydney.
Firstly, she said they need to understand the risks to mental health in the work and then plan control measures to eliminate or reduce these risks.
Secondly, employers need to see bullying and harassment as a mental health risk and not simply a matter to be addressed as a complaint.
Thirdly, leaders need to know how to work with people who are have mental health conditions.
“In some cases, this can be very challenging and HR and leaders may need to be informed with good clinical advice,” said Dunlop.
She also observed that OHS professionals are very familiar with perceiving hazards and risks and ensuring employers address risks through proactive and preventative control strategies. “Mental health has some differences to physical health obviously, but there is a lot that OHS practice can bring to this area to ensure that risks are being actively addressed,” she said.
Dunlop will be speaking at a conference on integrated approaches to workplace mental health, which will be held from Monday 2 March to Thursday 5 March 2020. Organised by The Australian Institute of Health & Safety and Criterion Conferences, the conference will be held at Sydney Boulevard Hotel, 90 William Street Sydney. For more information visit the conference website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 8336 1995.
Article originally published by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety.