To celebrate Mental Health Month in 2023, let’s dig a little bit deeper. Thankfully, the nation has been waking up to the persistent and widespread nature of mental health issues, as well as their seriousness.
While events like R U OK? Day and Mental Health Month are fantastic initiatives, which we certainly urge you to embrace, it goes deeper than that.
You can always do more to raise awareness and provide meaningful support to yourself, and your employees.
Educate yourself first!
Before you start looking for ways you can do better, it starts with education. Find some online resources, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts, and look to government and NGO guides to help enhance your knowledge of mental health issues and gather strategies to help yourself and others.
The government has some specifically small business-focused assistance on offer that can help.
What do we know in 2023 about mental health in Australia?
With mental health issues now much more widely understood and accepted, let’s look at the most recent information and statistics around the incidence and prevalence of these challenges in Australia.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare uncovered the following:
- 44%, or 8.6 million Australians, have experienced a mental health condition at some point in their life.
- 20% of Australians aged 16 – 85 experienced a mental health condition in the last 12 months.
- 5% or 800,000 people are estimated to have a severe mental illness.
- LGBTIQA+ people are particularly affected with 61% having been diagnosed with depression and 47% with an anxiety disorder, while 57% report experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress within the past 4 weeks.
When it comes to mental health, these statistics and studies showcase the stark scale of challenges and suffering afflicting our nation as a whole.
Ways to help yourself keep on top of things
Some of you will be running a business by yourself, with nobody else to help you and no employees to think of. This means that incredible pressure can be placed on your shoulders and it’s wise to check in with yourself and adopt strategies to help cope.
Sign up to the Beyond Blue program NASBO
NASBO or ‘NewAccess for Small Business Owners’ is a government-funded program delivered by Beyond Blue which aims to support small businesses. As the program states on its mission:
“Over 6 sessions, your mental health coach will work with you to manage stress and overwhelm using straightforward problem-solving approaches.
All mental health coaches are specially trained and have a small business background so they understand your unique challenges.”
It’s free, available through telehealth, and incredibly useful – check it out and sign up for your complimentary business-focused sessions.
One of the easiest things you can do to help avoid mental health issues and stress is to sleep properly – at least 7-8 hours a day is the professional recommendation. It’s an often overlooked and an incredibly powerful addition to your arsenal.
Get some affordable therapy
Beyond NASBO, some more long-term therapy could be on the cards. Some people avoid therapy because they might see it as expensive or unnecessary. It can be, but there are many ways to access free therapy these days, whether in person or through telehealth. You can also get a referral from your GP and receive a number of subsidised sessions.
Stay on top of your to-do-list
Stress can build quickly when your to do list runs away with itself. Without bursting a blood vessel, lay out your time in advance to make sure all of your necessary items during the work week can be achieved.
What can you do in your own business to make a difference to employees?
It may well be that you have struggles of your own. If you count yourself lucky in that regard, it’s highly likely that if you employ a few staff, that they may well be dealing with issues that are not readily apparent.
Not only should removing stigma and providing support be an aim in its own right you’ll also find that happier, healthier, and better-supported employees help your business thrive as well.
So, what can you do to shed a brighter light on mental health struggles, take away the shame, and put in place better strategies and measures to support the health of your workers?
Engage with JobAccess
Employers can gain expert advice from a free service called JobAccess.
- Employers can call 1800 464 800 to engage with a JobAccess Agent to access advice on potential workplace adjustments, individual counselling and awareness training specifically tailored to their workplace needs.
- Employers can visit the JobAccess Employer Toolkit which includes free and practical resources covering all aspects of disability employment, including mental health. This complementary toolkit is designed to boost employer confidence and equip organisations with the skills to effectively manage common mental health conditions at work.
- JobAccess can also organise on-the-job training for managers and employees with mental health conditions.
Point them towards free counselling
The offering and encouraging of counselling services should be a part of your staff onboarding. There are a variety of free services you can point towards including Beyond Blue.
Ensure proper breaks
Making sure your employees can access adequate breaks is important for workers to take a breather and reset. (This applies to you, as the owner, as well!)
Provide information on wellbeing
Providing access to information or workshops on nutrition, sleep, exercise and mindfulness can be of great help to overall health.
Try to be flexible where possible
As much as you can, provide flexibility to workers who need it in terms of start/stop times and work-from-home arrangements when appropriate.
Give regular performance feedback and encouragement
Sometimes, knowing how well you’re going in your role and getting meaningful feedback can boost self-esteem and confidence.
Avoid making mental health a taboo topic and make sure your team knows they can come to you with sensitive issues or work problems, and you’ll listen. This can be as simple as taking staff for an individual coffee to see how they’re going at work and being open.
*While you can’t be solely responsible for your employee’s mental health, you can always provide information and referrals to professional services and government resources. So, take care of yourself, and look out for your staff as much as you can.