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We are all aware that mental health is a growing challenge we face, particularly at work.

As a manager, whether we like it or not, mental health issues don’t get left at the front gate in the morning.

If the phrases people management, productivity and strategic thinking appear in your position description, then so too does mental health.

Developing emotional intelligence and learning to have these difficult conversations is a must.


How To Spot A Team Member With Mental Health Challenges

The World Health Organization has some hints on how to identify a staff member dealing with mental health.

If they are:

√  unable to cope with the normal stresses of life
√  can’t work productively and fruitfully
√  or isn’t able to make a contribution to their community

…then as managers, you have a role to play.


Staff Expectations On Mental Health Have Changed

I recently attend a webinar with the Chair of not for profit organisation, Beyond Blue, Julia Gillard, who shared research that “staff expectations have changed in relation to their employer’s attitude to mental health”.

As we continue to look for ways to keep up with changing times, I wonder, has your management team had “The Chat”?

“Almost 50% of people don’t reach out (for help) because of the stigma associated with mental health”.

While that statistic is frightening, it presents a ton of opportunities for managers to support their staff’s mental health as well as increase engagement and productivity


1. Be Mindful

In every team of three people, statistically speaking at least one person will be grappling with a mental health concern. If you have six people in your team – that’s two people suffering.

Of those two, one person will not reach out for help.

Being mindful of that statistic can change your radar for mental health issues.

When you apply a mindful lens to your daily interactions and individuals feel genuinely supported, it has a profound effect on the outcomes.

The bigger your team, the more people affected.


2. Demonstrate Your Values

Your company values aren’t there to stop the words sliding off your letterhead.

Check them out.

Do any of them include words and phrases such as compassion, family, improving people’s lives, together, understanding, respect, service, equity, ethical practice or courage? And what about strong leadership?

Embed those values into your daily work. Use this as a great opportunity to walk your talk. To position yourself as an employer of choice.


3. Take The Lead On Innovation and Leadership

Mental health in the workplace is a chance for innovation and leadership – no matter which branch you occupy on the org chart.

As former Prime Minister Gillard says, we need to “get in front of the future waves” by continuing the conversation around mental health, embracing the concepts and maintaining the human connection.

It’s only through normalising mental health that we will reduce the stigma.

One easy way to take the lead is to get your team involved in the next R U Ok Day and keep the conversation going.


4. More Important Than Physical Health

For some of our GEN Y and Millennial colleagues, employer sponsored flu vaccines, lunch time yoga and a meditation space have been around since the olden days, right?

In reality, these are all cultural transitions that have evolved over the lifetime of the Baby Boomer’s careers.

As a movement, mental health is positioning itself to be the next cultural shift in the workplace. That means our Millennials will soon be hearing “Dad, in the olden days when you started work, how come nobody thought mental health was important?!”

Beyond Blue says prioritising mental health is more important than the promotion of physical health.


But It’s Not My Job

The mental health system can only do so much, especially in this over-stretched environment where more and more people are being affected – and still more are yet to be affected.

When the stock market gradually goes up and unemployment goes down, mental illness won’t slink quietly into the pandemic history books.

The challenge goes on in our busy and complicated modern life.

Therefore, mental health is a subject middle managers need to get comfortable with.

This is our new normal.

And with society’s ever evolving expectations around corporate responsibility, it is our job.


You Don’t Have To Be Trained – You Already Have Skills

Admitting that you’re not a professional but keeping it real is a great formula for supporting staff and colleagues.

No one expects you to be a psychologist (unless you are one). But a conversation built on trust with options for support can make the world of difference in someone’s life.

Of course, if you ever feel even slightly out of your depth, trust your instincts and reach out to your Employee Assistance Program provider, to Beyond Blue or one of the other organisations that specialise in this space. You could even suggest a mental health first aid course.


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