July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020 | Articles


What should be in your mental health first aid kit?

In recent mental health conversations, there are many similarities drawn with physical health. It’s said if we approach mental health the same as physical health, then its stigma will be broken down and conversations will be more open. This helps to normalise mental health challenges and make those experiencing them feel less alone and more able to seek help.

What should be in your mental health first aid kit?

In recent mental health conversations, there are many similarities drawn with physical health. It’s said if we approach mental health the same as physical health, then its stigma will be broken down and conversations will be more open. This helps to normalise mental health challenges and make those experiencing them feel less alone and more able to seek help.

So, perhaps we should also draw similarities in our approach to workplace mental health.

One of the things we do for workplace physical health is to ensure there is always a fully stocked first aid kit and workplace first aiders.

Perhaps, then, we should have a mental health first aid kit. The Interact Group  managing director Nikki Brouwers thinks this is an important idea for the prevention and support of mental health illnesses. “As every workplace has a traditional first-aid kit to treat minor physical injuries, so too should employers be responsible for early intervention in the treatment of staff mental health concerns,” she says.

While a physical health first aid kit contains physical items, a mental health first aid kit is about equipping your management and staff with a range of skills. Brouwers shares what she thinks should be in your workplace’s mental health first aid kit:

Promote and support healthy lifestyle choices 

Perhaps the simplest tool is promoting a healthy lifestyle. Organisations can make simple changes, such as providing free fruit snacks, to creative measures such as walking meetings or team sports matches. Looking out for your employees’ physical health, and a feeling of being valued, transfers to their mental health and wellbeing.

Have zero tolerance for bullying, harassment or discrimination

Providing a mentally healthy workplace is vital but what is it? The World Health Organisation defines it as: “A healthy working environment is one in which there is not only an absence of harmful conditions but an abundance of health-promoting ones.”

Your workplace needs to not only remove harmful conditions – such as taking a zero bullying, harassment and discrimination stance – but also introducing positive, healthy practices.

Promote staying at work

As an employer you need to “understand that work is good for your employees’ health and encourage remaining at work following injury, illness or disease to promote recovery,” explains Brouwers.

SuperFriend has combined with other mental health authorities to compile guidelines for helping staff return to work following mental illness. These include making reasonable job adjustments, putting together a return-to-work plan, seeking advice and more.

Support staff

Consider how you can support your staff, not just through any mental health challenges, but to avoid any challenges if possible. For example, look at the stressors and risks associated to your team’s mental health and think about what you can remove or reduce, and manage those that are inevitable. You need to look after your employees’ stress levels and provide your management team with the skills to do this.

Provide access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

Encouraging your staff – and their families – to seek support by talking to professionals is an important step. Make sure you have systems in place whereby your managers and team leaders know how to approach those who may need support, how to frame those conversations, and how to encourage them towards professional help.

Build resilience

Staff resilience in dealing with customers, colleagues, management and their own role is vital. Resilience can be taught and improved upon, and will result in a stronger culture with reduced absenteeism, staff turnover and workplace harassment; and increased productivity.

Providing your management and staff with resilience training is a positive step, which can help make differences to your team’s wellbeing and ability to manage their workplace role.

Understand and adapt

The future of the workplace is something you need to adapt to right now. There are several influences impacting upon the workplace, such as an ageing workforce, technology impacts, and the changing team environment, with flexible working arrangements like working from home.

It’s vital you understand how these affect your workplace specifically. This helps you adapt as required, whether that’s within policies and practices, workplace culture and climate, structures, and/or the management and staff education and training you provide.


Research:

Resilience

Return to work

WHO

 

 

This article was provided by SuperFriend, a national mental health organisation helping workplaces improve mental health and wellbeing for their employees and customers.