MENTAL HEALTH SERIES: Educating yourself on mental health + 7 things you can do as a business owner to help…

 In Mental Health

DISCLAIMER & TRIGGER WARNING: We are sharing common problems our clients experience. BespokeHR are not mental health or medical practitioners and any advice provided in these blogs do not take away the requirement to seek professional advice where required, and advise to seek further assistance via the links to resources at the end of this blog. This blog talks about themes of suicide and psychosis. 

Today we’re going to dive deep into some things that need to be talked about, but are often never addressed.

Mental illness is going to be the biggest health challenge in our lifetime. Right now, one in five Australians has a diagnosed mental health condition, and more people between 15-44 years are dying from suicide than any other cause.

Here are a couple of observations we’ve seen in the last few years at Bespoke HR.

  • An increase of self -harm by workers.
  • Suicides of team members in the workplace or of them witnessing suicides. 
  • Preparing workers to deal with traumatic situations in their workplace, especially in emergency services, frontline personnel, health practitioners and FIFO workers.
  • Communicating with staff around family members, staff members, incidents near the workplace that involve suicide or homicide.
  • An increase of drug and alcohol consumption in the workplace, and psychosis / mental health crisis.
  • Briefing and educating business owners on the seriousness of mental health, and that they have the same obligation from an occupational health & safety standard as someone breaking their leg. 
  • The importance of teaching business owners how to take a human approach to mental health.

As a result, there have been some critical incidents that require immediate attention, and can leave a business owner absolutely out of their depth in handling a mental health crisis. 

There have been a few incidents where clients of ours have been met with some heartbreaking and extremely challenging circumstances around staff members or family taking their own life, or experiencing altered states of consciousness, brought about by mental illness.

Don’t leave yourself exposed.

Know the warning signs and be prepared for what your workplace experience a critical incident. 

Some early warning signs to watch out for that someone is not necessarily in their normal state of mind include:

  • Dismantled speech – conversations, content or sentences that seem to not make sense. 
  • Extreme out of character irritability – increased agitation, aggression or anger outbursts that appear to have a rapid onset.
  • Severe withdrawal that is out of character – including not answering phone calls, absence from work without explanation, or withdrawn engagement from team members.
  • Extreme shift in mood, including elation and joy following a long period of low mood.
  • Impaired memory – not being able to remember things, particularly short term memory.
  • Dazed or unresponsive – they appear to be “spaced out”, or not aware of their surroundings.
  • Themes of conversation that centre around suicide or self harm, or having a plan to end their life.

Here are 7 things you need to do if you identify any of the above signs.

1. Take action immediately. 

At the end of the day, if you have a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right with someone, or you’ve noticed some changes, don’t be afraid to reach out to that person and check in. 

Often people are worried they may offend or upset someone by asking if they’re okay. 

Remember to connect from a place of concern for the welfare and wellbeing of that person.

If you think someone is in immediate danger, or at risk of harming themselves or others, it’s important to take action immediately. 

It is common for business owners to ignore the warning signs for a range of reasons, such as the fear of invading someone’s privacy, not knowing how to handle the situation, or not knowing how to identify the signs that someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.

If a worker is showing signs of the above, take action and call Lifeline, the Mental Health Emergency line, or if safe to do so, take them to the nearest emergency room. 

From my perspective, I generally go with the ‘human approach’ and what will help me sleep at night first rather than worrying about the ‘industrial ramifications’ and/or prying. 

2. Have a conversation – “Are you okay?”

Have a conversation in a quiet, private and safe space. 

Let the person know they don’t have to talk to you if they don’t feel like it, but you’ve noticed some changes in them and wanted to check in and see if they were okay. 

To find out more about how you can start a conversation with someone you are concerned about, visit RUOK for a step by step guide on how to do this. 

3. Listen without judgement. 

Listen without trying to solve a problem. 

When someone is experiencing depression, they often feel unheard, unacknowledged and can in some cases be afraid of “burdening” someone with their perceived challenges. 

Approach the situation with openness, curiosity, and without judgement. 

People with depression often feel stigmatised, so it’s important for the person to feel they are a part of a safe, and accepting work environment.

4. Offer Support – can you connect them with resources?

As mental health is often complex and individualistic, with a range of contributing factors, point them in the direction of a professional, or mental health practitioner. 

Does your business have flyers, information packs and/or lists of resources in view to staff that offer phone numbers, websites and health organisations that they can turn to if they need support?

Don’t try and solve a problem or give advice when you aren’t the professional. Connect them with appropriate resources listed at the end of this blog.

Ask if there is anything you or the organisation can do to help their situation. They may be able to shed some light on their circumstances and provide you with an understanding of how they may be feeling and what you may be able to do to support them. 

5. Take a Mental Health First Aid Course. 

Awareness and education is key. The more information and experience you can get as a business owner and leader on mental health, the better equipped you’ll be to handle any situation that may arise. 

Courses are affordable and are run for both individuals and organisations across Australia. 

To find out more about how you can enrol, click here.

6. Refer to professionals

There is one important factor to consider in any mental health crisis – you are most likely NOT a professional in this space, and the best thing to do is to refer immediately to someone who has experience and knowledge. 

In a mental health crisis, get immediate support from professionals, and also make it a part of your workplace that crisis numbers and hotlines are displayed in a clear and prominent place in (if you don’t have an Employee Assistance Program – EAP). 

7. If threats of harm, call emergency services. 

If any worker is showing signs of the above, it is critical to take immediate action. 

Call 000 if it’s an emergency – if there is any threat of violence, harm to others or the person’s self IT IS YOUR LEGAL OBLIGATION to keep that person and others safe. 

Resources & Emergency numbers you can reach include: 

Lifeline: Ph: 13 11 14 W:

Beyond Blue: Ph: 1300 22 4636  W:

The Black Dog Institute: W:

Safework SA Mental Health Resources: W:

Mental Health Emergency Line: Ph. 13 14 65 or in case of an emergency requiring immediate assistance, call 000

Here are four things you can to work with Bespoke HR…

  1. Take the Culture IQ Test – this is a simple, free 10 minute, comprehensive assessment of your business that covers 13 critical areas that make up an organisation’s culture. How do you rate?
  2. From there, you can take the 5 Day Culture Experiment – a quick and immersive 3 step experiment that provides a “quick win” for your business to start a valuable conversation with your staff about creating an award-winning culture.
  3. Start the 90 Day Culture Accelerator – which covers the 4 critical areas of business: DEFINE, ATTRACT, MANAGE & GROW. These areas have the highest yielding impact on your profits, people and productivity.
  4. Need help on figuring out what your nest step is, or tailored advice for your specific situation? Book a Free 15 Minute Culture IQ Mastermind Session.
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Paulette Kolarz

Customer Support

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