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mental health workplace training in Australia
In: Workplace Mental Health

With mental health becoming an increasingly important topic in the workplace, many organisations are considering mental health workplace training for their leaders, managers and employees. The goal of this training is typically to provide staff with the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Better understand, and for leaders to be able to more effectively manage, workplace mental health; and
  2. Develop personal resilience and for leaders to also influence resilience in others. That is, to develop an individual’s ability to deal constructively with life’s challenges.

However, whilst there are a broad range of programs available to achieve this it can be difficult to know what the best mental health workplace training approach is for your organisation.

The good news is that there are some fundamental principles and training guidelines to help you select the most effective mental health workplace training for your workplace.

Mental Health Workplace Training Principles

First and foremost, there are 5 core mental health workplace training principles to drive positive workplace mental health outcomes.

  1. Take both a responsive and proactive approach. That is, support staff to be:
    1. Responsive to workplace mental health issues through mental health awareness training; and
    2. Proactive in developing coping skills through building resilience training for the challenges of life to help prevent mental health issues.
  1. Ensure content is relevant, practical, accurate and evidence-based. Checking that the content is written by an experienced and qualified professional is crucial when delivering psychological wellbeing content.
  2. Link and integrate the mental health workplace training into the broader business. That is, create context for the mental health workplace training within the organisation’s broader values; wellbeing strategy, health and safety program, and or leadership or other professional development program in the business. If the mental health workplace training sits within the organisation independently of other core strategic programs, it becomes difficult to create any genuine change.
  1. Provide post-training transfer and integration opportunities. More than just a training event, the mental health workplace training approach ultimately needs to be integrated into “the way we do things around here”.  Therefore, effective mental health workplace training needs to incorporate a plan and resources to assist leaders, managers and employees to transfer their knowledge and skills into the workplace such as the availability of a resource toolkit post-training. Ongoing workplace integration can also be further facilitated through incorporating mental health awareness and building resilience training into new employee inductions and or annual health and safety compliance requirements.
  2. Be clear on what you are trying to achieve and measure it. Nothing is more compelling than solid pre and post data indicating that the mental health workplace training is creating an impact. For example, depending on your goals you can measure employee absence, compensation claim patterns; and or program feedback data that indicates staff found the mental health workplace training relevant, useful, and practical to both their personal and professional lives.

Your Mental Health Workplace Training Guide

So, if the above principles form the framework for your mental health workplace training approach, what should you be specifically looking for in a mental health awareness and resilience program?

  1. Mental Health Awareness Leadership and Employee Training

Mental health awareness workplace training that provides both people leaders and all employees with the information to understand and the tools to address mental health concerns at work is an important foundation to implementing an effective workplace mental health approach.

One of the single biggest predictors of the success of mental health workplace training program is the development of leaders ability to proficiently understand and manage workplace mental health.

Specifically, you will want your mental health workplace training for leaders to:

  • Develop leader’s mental health vocabulary so leaders can feel comfortable talking about mental health and use the most accurate and respectful language; understand what mental illness is and is not; and importantly, recognise their own attitudes towards mental health and how this can influence how effectively or otherwise they support the mental health of their staff;
  • Clarify mental health fact from fiction. There are a lot of myths about mental health that are still prevalent. Operating off incorrect assumptions and information perpetuates stigma

around mental health and can negatively impact how a leader manages an employee with a mental health condition;

  • Provide information on how to recognise a mental health issue in a staff member. This is particularly important for anxiety, depression and substance abuse conditions which are the three most likely mental health conditions a leader will come across in the workplace;
  • Explain the key role and responsibilities of the organisation, manager, and employee in respect to workplace mental health;
  • Practically outline how to appropriately apply the key areas of the law and workplace mental health, including dealing with an employee’s mental health condition and performance management.
  • Develop skills to engage in an effective conversation about mental health, know how to direct employees to support services and make a referral;
  • Help leaders know what to do when confronting a difficult mental health issue such as encountering a reluctance to seek help and suicide; and
  • Ensure leaders understand and manage their limits, boundaries and capabilities when dealing with workplace mental health. That is, a leader is not, and should not be expected to be a pseudo-psychologist or counsellor.

For employees, mental health workplace training will be similar to a leader’s mental health workplace training yet without elements that are related to direct people management.  For example, understanding attitudes and operating off helpful behaviours towards mental illness in the workplace would be included, as would developing employee’s capacity to take appropriate action if they or a colleague is experiencing a mental health issue. However, the program would exclude content such as the law and performance management.

  1. Building Resilience Leadership and Employee Training

Your mental health workplace training will be most effective when it builds on awareness and takes a preventative approach. Providing employees with the knowledge and skills to develop their resilience and for managers, to influence the resilience of others is a critical element to achieve positive workplace mental health.

Your resilience training will be most effective if it provides your employees with:

  • An understanding of the evidence-based qualities and characteristics of resilient individuals;
  • An insight into the biology and psychology of stress;
  • Practical and applied ways to develop the evidence-based tools to deal more effectively with change, challenge and adversity; and
  • The opportunity to develop a personalise and specific building resilience action plan.

For leaders, developing the above personal resilience skills needs to be extended to developing the leader’s skills to influence resilience in others.  This can be achieved through tools such as role modelling effective stress management; managing an individual’s job demands; and knowing how to have a supportive conversation with a team member who may be struggling with change, challenge or adversity.

Addressing workplace mental health has become business critical.  The most mature organisations are actively implementing mental health workplace training to achieve happier, healthier and more productive workplaces. Implementing a best-practice approach to workplace mental health training assists in achieving this outcome, ultimately leading to improved business performance.

The Mental Health Project

The Mental Health project provides organisations globally with a proactive and preventative approach to mental health and wellbeing through evidence based, high impact, innovative, and engaging eLearning courses and support resources.

If you or someone you know needs help contact your organisation´s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), your GP or call LifeLine on 13 11 14; Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800; MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978; Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467