Discover three ways to create a mentally safe workplace for your team

For 2021 World Health Day, #letstalk about Depression. Depression is a mood disorder that causes a constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest. And when you are suffering from depression, it is difficult to carry out daily tasks.

Millions of Australians suffer from depression. New data from Roy Morgan identifies that in the third quarter of 2020, over 3.8 million Australians were suffering from depression during the nationwide lockdown. 1


Sadly, many suffer in silence. Over the years, there's a stigma around depression and mental health in general. But to get people the help they deserve, we need to break the stigma and talk about depression.


How to tell if someone is suffering from depression? Here are the common signs and symptoms:


Behaviour:

  1. He/She is not going out anymore

  2. He/Sher is not getting things done at work

  3. He/Sher is withdrawing from close family and friends

  4. He/Sher is relying on alcohol and sedatives

  5. He/Sher is not doing the usually enjoyable activities

  6. He/She is unable to concentrate


Feelings:

  1. overwhelmed

  2. guilty

  3. irritable

  4. frustrated

  5. lacking in confidence

  6. unhappy

  7. indecisive

  8. disappointed

  9. miserable

  10. sad


Thoughts:

  1. 'I’m a failure.'

  2. 'It’s my fault.'

  3. 'Nothing good ever happens to me.'

  4. 'I’m worthless.'

  5. 'Life’s not worth living.'

  6. 'People would be better off without me.'


Physical:

  1. tired all the time

  2. sick and run down

  3. headaches and muscle pains

  4. churning gut

  5. sleep problems

  6. loss or change of appetite

  7. significant weight loss or gain

(*2)


Please note that this list is not to be used as a diagnosis tool. If you are worried and would like more information, please contact your GP for advice and assistance.


If you see someone in your team experiencing some of these signs or symptoms, you may want to support them but are unsure how. Here are three things you could do:


1. Create a safe space for people to talk


The Oxford Dictionary defines a safe space as a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment or any other emotional or physical harm. (*3)


Did you know that a safe space builds more trust and respect between coworkers?

A safe space is good for the team’s psychological safety and mental health.


In June 2018, Safe Work Australia published national guidance on work-related psychological health and safety, which describes how to build a psychologically healthy and safe workplace by identifying, assessing and controlling risks to workers’ mental health.


Here are four simple steps to prevent psychological hazards making your workplace a safe space for your team:


  1. Identify the psychological hazards and risks.

  2. Assess what could happen to your team if they are exposed to these hazards and risks.

  3. The safest option is to eliminate the risk. If unable to eliminate it, what measures are you doing to reduce the risk?

  4. Maintain, monitor and review control measures.

(*4)



2. Build a Peer Support Group


A peer support group within your business is any group of people whose purpose is to ensure that your team have someone to talk to if they need support with an issue. Building a robust PSG that creates momentum and support takes consistency but well worth the effort.


I’ll be sharing with you a few of the guidelines that I always tell my client to consider when creating a support group:


  • Define the purpose/role of the group. Example: Peer support group for mental health

  • Define who can join the group. Can anyone join the group? Are there prerequisites? How many people will make up the PSG?

  • What skills do they need? How will you appoint them?

  • How do they communicate with the rest of the team?

  • Do they have a strategy for the year? Who drives it? How do you measure it?

  • How often and where will the group meet? Online or onsite?

  • How will they support the team in a proactive way?

  • How do they support one another?

  • What is the company's expectations of the group?

  • What autonomy do they have within the group for MH initiatives

  • Who is the C-Suite champion for the PSG

  • How do they get support?

  • What do they feedback to the leaders/higher management?


This may seem complicated, however, a well thought out strategy with clear boundaries and a line of support will achieve much better outcomes for the whole team - Do you have a PSG?


3. At the end of the day, it is not your job to fix it.


More often than not, you may be met with silence when you try to help someone suffering from depression or any other mental illness, for that matter. I want you to know that it is not your job to fix or diagnose them. That is the job of a trained clinician such as a GP or psychologist.

So what can you do? You can start by sharing that you have noticed a change in their behaviour and worried about them. Ask if there anything you can do to help (you can have some numbers to hand like your EAP, Lifeline, Black dog institute.) You may ask if there is anyone you can call for them, such as a friend or their doctor.


In a report by Aus Med, the rate of people suffering from depression who are actively looking for help appears to be on the rise, with around half of those are actively getting treated. (*5)


Timely interventions are essential. Each person may respond differently to treatment, and finding the proper treatment may take time. Therefore if one of your team members are struggling, support during this process is critical. (*6)


Depression is more than just feeling sad. It is an actual illness with real symptoms. And with the proper treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.


Support is one of the psychosocial factors when looking at reducing Mental Health risks within your business.


If you want to know more about creating a psychologically safe and mentally healthy workplace, or how to create a PSG contact us on 1300 114 818 to have a private and confidential conversation.


Source:

1 http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8566-australian-mental-health-conditions-covid-19-pandemic-november-2020-202011090621

2 https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/signs-and-symptoms

3 https://www.lexico.com/definition/safe_space

4 https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/infographic-four-steps-preventing-psychological-injury-work#picModal

5 https://www.ausmed.com/cpd/articles/depression

6 https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-is-depression 7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EGsjaSo9Z8

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