Wellbeing

Why the key to improving Aussies’ mental health starts with the workplace

- October 24, 2022 4 MIN READ
Stressed woman at desk with 'help' sign on her forehead

Nick Hudson, founder and CEO of The Push-Up Challenge, says all workplaces, large and small, corporate and not-for-profit, should be investing more in the mental health and education of their people. In fact, it could help solve our mental health crisis once and for all …

Last week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the number of Australians who died by suicide in 2021.

3,144. 

That’s 3,144 too many.  And five more than the year before.

The number shouldn’t be this high. Australia is more than capable of reducing the suicide rate through a multifaceted strategy. One of the strategies that workplaces can play a big part in, is supporting mental health education and awareness.

Mental health education in the workplace

By better educating Australians across a spectrum of mental health dimensions, we can reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and equip those who are in need to better manage their own mental health, or perhaps support someone close to them.

Man with head in hands at work desk

I’ve seen this first-hand through the mental health education event my charity runs, The Push-Up Challenge. In June every year, Australians complete a defined number of push-ups each day while learning a new mental health fact, in the hope it prompts conversations and education about mental health.

I have participants of all ages, genders and walks of life reaching out to tell me how they learnt something new about mental health, or something new about themselves or a loved one, because the Challenge encouraged them to talk openly about mental health.

98 per cent of our participants this year said our event helped to de-stigmatise mental illness, and half of our participants used the event as a vehicle to check in on someone else.

These are all important steps forward in improving the mental health of Australia.

And it’s not just us. There are a number of other great charities including Lifeline, Movember and RUOK? running initiatives and events which foster inclusivity and fun, while normalising conversations around mental illness, diagnosis and treatment.

Getting workplaces involved in events like these is so important – from both a mental health and a cultural perspective – but there is a lot more that organisations can do to support mental health promotion.

I want to see all workplaces, large and small, corporate and not-for-profit, investing more in the mental health and education of their people.

Mental Health First Aid is something every single person in the workplace should be equipped with. After all, if we’re trained in how to bandage an open wound, why aren’t we trained in how to support a colleague through a difficult time?

Tired, stressed worker sitting with hard hat on and head down

Better mental health from the workplace to home

If every workplace invests meaningfully in educating its employees about mental health, these skills and knowledge can then be taken home and parents will be better equipped to educate their children on mental health.

And why is it important that we focus on mental health education from an early age?

Because tragically, the leading cause of death among Australians aged 18-24 is suicide.

Not car accidents, nor alcohol-related incidents that are synonymous with this age group. Suicide.

We know people who take their own life feel like they’re a burden to others, and despite being loved by many, don’t feel a sense of belonging. We all have a role to play in changing this, so people feel valued, have a strong sense of purpose and belonging.

If parents come home from work with more knowledge about mental illness, they can impart this knowledge on their children. They will also be better equipped to identify if their children are at risk of mental illness, self-harm or suicide.

We can make a difference

Australia has so much potential for a future where mental health looks very different.

Currently, nearly half (43.7 per cent) of all Australians have experienced a mental disorder during their lifetime. If we can continue to de-stigmatise diagnosis and treatment of these disorders, and improve access to care, we have the opportunity to significantly lower the number of lives lost to mental ill health.

If your workplace engages its people in mental health promotion, keep up the good work, but don’t stop there. Start thinking: what else can we do? What more can we offer?

And if it doesn’t, it’s time to get started.

If you or someone you know needs help:
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • Headspace: 1800 650 890
  • BeyondBlue’s New Access Mental Health Coaching Support
  • Hear2Talk NSW peer-to-peer phone support: 1300 428 255 between 12 noon – 8pm, 7 days per week
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

This article first appeared on Kochie’s Business Builders, read the original here.

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