Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace
Mental health problems don’t discriminate and can affect anyone at any age, with 1 in 5 Australians aged 16-85 having a mental illness. That’s why it’s so important to care for your mental health by learning to recognise and manage stress and remembering to take time for yourself when you need it.
Health and wellbeing at work
Many of us spend a big part of our day at work, meaning that our workplaces can have a big impact on our mental health, both positively and negatively. While the connection between physical hazards such as noise, dust and chemical hazards and health are well recognised amongst employers and employees alike, the relationship between mental and physical wellbeing and the jobs we do is not. However, the connection between work and mental health cannot be ignored, with three in ten employees experiencing mental health problems each year.
There will be a change in behaviour when someone is struggling with mental health issues, with them not seeming like their usual selves. However, these changes can be difficult to pick up unless you know what to look for. Some possible signs of mental illness in the workplace are:
• they may be more irritable, restless, feel tired all the time, or experience a loss of energy
• show little interest or pleasure in doing things
• constantly feel down or hopeless
• increase in sick days
• excessive use of alcohol or drugs
• rapid changes of emotional mood
• poor performance
If you notice a workmate exhibiting these behaviours, it’s important to check in with them and ask if they’re okay. Poor mental health can increase the likelihood of sleep disturbance and anxiety, leading to reduced ability to concentrate on work tasks and production and potential injury.
One of the biggest impacts work can have is on our stress levels, which is an important factor in overall mental wellbeing. While stress is an unavoidable part of life and certain levels of it are normal, excessive long-term stress can be damaging to your mental health.
Stress can be defined as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.”
Stress has been associated with:
• Anxiety and depression
• Heart disease
• Back pain
• Gastrointestinal illnesses
WorkPac as an employer always assesses and takes measures to control risks from work-related stress. Employees have responsibilities to talk to their managers about any factors outside the workplace which can turn the otherwise normal pressures of work into excessive ones. Stress and time pressures could also lead to you taking more risks with your long term health e.g. a two minute job which may release silica dust and therefore require you to wear a face mask, can easily turn into a 15 minute job if you have to go to the store to collect the necessary PPE.
If you are beginning to feel that work-related stress and other factors are beginning to take an impact on your health, there are many small things that can make a real difference.
Give a loved one a call or arrange to spend some time with friends and family
Eat three healthy meals per day
Exercise – even something small like going for a walk or doing some stretching exercises can make a difference
Read a book, listen to music, or watch your favourite show or movie
Do something nice for someone else
Spend some time outdoors
While those can be great ways to improve your overall wellbeing, sometimes we need some extra support to get through a tough period. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to seek the advice and support of a professional.
There are several free services you can reach out to, such as:
• Lifeline have a 24-hour crisis line that you can call for support and many valuable resources on their website. You can call on 13 11 14 or visit their website here: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
• Beyond Blue also have a 24-hour line you can reach on 1300 22 4636, and their website offers plenty of advice and information: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/home
And if you’re a WorkPac employee, you can access free psychology through our Employee Assistance Program. You can learn more here
Remember - it is not just a case of trying to be tough – if you don’t feel mentally well seek help
- HEALTH AND SAFETY