Friday morning started out very productive at the Exmouth Business Hub.

Our local expert psychologist, Jullie Waller (Connect Psychotherapy), engaged the audience with an informative and interactive presentation on Mental Health in the Workplace.

Over 15 attendees from the community and various businesses had come along, including those from Patches Therapy Services WA, IGA, Learmonth Solar Observatory, Mutts and Bullara Station.

Mental health education and resources such as this workshop are incredibly important in the regional Mid-West, where suicide rates are almost double that of WA’s.

As an intro to the session, Julie covered the difference between mental health and mental illnesses. Mental health is one’s state of mental and emotional well-being, whereas mental illnesses are conditions that impede the normal mental, emotional, and even physical function of an individual, and are diagnosed by professionals. Thus, it’s important to understand that mental health is on a continuum and varies throughout our lives. Julie also highlighted the fact that Australian businesses have a legal obligation to provide a mentally healthy workplace

Following, we learned about the Head’s Up – Return of Investment (ROI) tool. The tool is easy to use and interpret and will help you to calculate the cost savings of your business if you implement mentally healthy workplace practices.

During the main portion of the workshop, Julie explained the symptoms of anxiety, burn-out, depression, and stress.  Anxiety is a worry which is persistent, lasting long after the absence of a stressor. Depression is a state of sadness that lasts longer than two weeks; it may be caused by an event/s, or it may come about with no cause at all. Stress is a state of worry in response to a stressor – it is a normal feeling but may impact the individual when in excess. Burn-out refers to the emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion faced by an individual who is experiencing constant stress.

Mental health conditions have varying symptoms and may be different from one person to another. However, it is important to check on your coworkers, friends, employers/employees, and acquaintances when they start showing the following signs:

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain; fatigue; agitation
  • Reduced motivation and interest in work, hobbies and relationships; disengagement; poor focus
  • Feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm; negative thoughts
  • Substance Use Disorder; signs of dangerous behaviour and self-harm

What can businesses do to create a mentally healthy workplace?

  1. Prioritise mental health: Check in with your employees regularly; start the conversation; use the ROI tool for your business. Provide support when and where necessary;
  2. Create a trusting, fair and respectful culture: encourage and demonstrate clear and open communication;
  3. Open and honest leadership: demonstrate healthy work habits; encourage honest discussion; show genuine displays of gratitude to others;
  4. Good job design: work with your team to develop a plan; ensure roles are clear; address stressors;
  5. Workload management: set realistic goals and expectations for your business and staff;
  6. Employee development: ensure your staff training is up to date and adequate; seek out opportunities to upskill yourself and your staff (i.e. RSM Business Local provide free courses on various business-related topics. ECCI’s EBAP workshops are also free). Offer education and training in mental health;
  7. Be an inclusive influencer: Ensure to include employees in social events, meetings, and work gatherings regardless of position, gender, or race;
  8. Ensure work-life balance: Having time away from work is proven to be essential to keep staff well-rested, engaged and proactive at work.

How to Have a Conversation – Ask: Are You OK?

Here are some conversation starters:

  • “You don’t seem to be your old self, what’s up?”
  • “I don’t see much of you these days, where have you been?”
  • “So how’s it all going?”

The trick is to listen without judgement. Here are some DON’Ts:

Don’t say:

  • “I know what you’re going through”
  • “Look on the bright side!”

Do say:

  • “You’re not alone”
  • “How can I help out?”

Encourage action. Ask:

  • “Have you spoken to anyone about this?”
  • “What would help you manage the load?”
  • “How do you think you can resolve this situation?”
  • “What can we change to make life easier?”

Dealing with denial? Tell them you are there for them when they are ready to chat. It’s best practice to keep checking in regularly.

Remember, three words can change a life.

We would like to thank Julie Waller for the time, effort and expertise which went into the creation of this session. In addition, the Exmouth Shire, for providing the funding necessary to run this session.

If you attended or were unable to attend and workshop and would like more information on the resource discussed please see the below links.

Resource Library:

Local Exmouth Mental Health Services

Visiting and Online Support Services

Online workplace and supervisor resources and support

Black Dog – Workplace Wellbeing Fact Sheet

What to say and why

Practising Gratefulness in the workplace

Think Mental Health – How to check in on someone

Think Mental Health – Mental Health in WA Infographic

Self Care Plan Template

How to ask, are you OK? at work.

Workplace Wellbeing Quiz