Management from Envirolab Services Melbourne participated this week, Tuesday 3 December, in a mental health workshop, which was conducted by the Black Dog Institute. The training was aimed to provide some learning and raise awareness about mental health in the workplace, whilst promoting the benefits of self-care.
Of significant note, the training coincided with the internationally observed, United Nations (UN) International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD). In observance of this day, we explore the importance of addressing mental health awareness, particularly because as people, we may be directly or indirectly affected by various health impairments at some point in our lives.
Mental Health as a Disability
Mental health impacts society, directly or indirectly. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is as a state of well-being where every individual can realise their own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to her or his community. In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) broadly defines disability to include mental health conditions. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports 7.3 million (45 per cent) of Australians aged 16 to 85 will experience a common mental health disorder, which may include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, personality disorders and eating disorders as types of mental illnesses.
Whilst most people who experience mental health issues can recover fully or are able to live and manage them (especially if supported early on), social stigma attached to mental health may delay recovery. Healthdirect Australia further reports that people with mental health issues may take on these prejudiced perceptions, which may deplete their self-esteem, and lead to these affected individuals not seeking help, withdrawing from society, substance abuse or even suicide. Whilst the need to raise awareness is critical, its effectiveness may only be as good as the available support and early intervention initiatives that are targeted to increase wellbeing and reduce vulnerabilities or risk factors.
Mental health is a major concern in the workplace environment.
In the workplace, there are many risk factors for mental health, which may affect an individual’s working capacity. Safe Work Australia outlines risks may relate to the nature and type of work, the organisational or managerial cultural environment, skills and competencies of employees, as well as poor or insufficient levels of support available for staff to carry out their work. This may lead to absenteeism, increased staff turnover, sick leave, a fall in productivity and therefore losses in human potential.
Inclusion in the workplace is not just about having that 'one-off' workshop, nor should it be a “nice to have” or feel good initiative. Rather, it should be engrained as being part of the business’ culture, so that people with disabilities are celebrated for the value they bring and the potential they have for the organisation as well as the wider community. As an organisation that prides itself on being an equal opportunity employer, we actively embrace diversity and inclusion across our business and strive to create a work environment that celebrates the uniqueness of each and every one of our people. This is because we believe the uniqueness of our people is what makes us stronger as an organisation.
In reflection of their training, the management team at Envirolab Melbourne have improved awareness and understanding, and are better equipped in assisting their team members with mental illness by providing support, which will enable their staff to perform their duties more effectively. Open communication channels for staff to comfortably talk about their mental health issues, and making adjustments to meet individual workers’ needs are some examples that can assist in improving staff wellbeing.
2019 Theme: Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda
Each year, the UN announces a theme to observe for IDPD. This annual theme provides an overarching focus on how we, as members of society, can strive for inclusivity by working together to remove physical, technological and attitudinal barriers that affect people with disability.
This year, IDPD is focused on empowering people with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as anticipated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognises disability as a cross-cutting issue.
About Black Dog Institute
Founded in 2002, the Black Dog Institute is a not-for-profit facility for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness, and the promotion of wellbeing. Primary areas of mental health research and treatment include: depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, workplace mental health, adolescents and young people, suicide prevention, e-mental health, and positive psychology and wellbeing.
Further information can be found at: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Established in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3, IDPwD is celebrated internationally on 3 December each year.
The day is aimed to promote awareness of disability issues and the abilities of people with disability. At the same time IDPwD also acknowledges the achievements of people with disability and aims to promote an understanding of disability issues, and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disability, by engaging disability organisations, people with disability, businesses, governments and communities in a range of activities.
More information: https://www.idpwd.com.au/