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You don't need to be a mental health expert to look after your own mental health or to give support to others.
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- Many people will experience mental illness at some point in their life.
- There are many different ways to get and give support.
- For yourself, it might start by setting up healthy habits and boundaries, taking time out, staying active and connecting with others.
- For others, all it can take is to notice when things don’t seem right, start a conversation and connect them to support services
How to support someone in your team
Mental health is not a static state. It changes every day depending on what is happening in our lives. Just like physical health, people can fluctuate from having ill-health to being healthy. Everyone at work will be at a different place, depending on their circumstances. Some people may be experiencing good mental health while others may be experiencing poor mental health, or be somewhere in between.
Leaders need to be able to provide the right kind of support at the right time. If you're an employer, manager or people leader, it's important to understand that a worker has a choice: they may decide to disclose their mental health condition to you, or they may choose not to.
It is also important to be aware of the signs that someone in your team may be affected by mental ill-health and act early. It can prevent incidents from occurring.
Some steps you can take
Changes in an employee’s mood, behaviour, performance or appearance can be a sign they may need support with their mental health.
They may be absent from work more or not performing work to their usual standard.
Headsup has more information on what to look for.
Taking part in mental health training can help you better understand how to spot the signs of mental ill health and how to offer the right support to your team. Register for free mental health training for employers.
Have a private conversation with your employee about the changes you’ve noticed, at a time and place that suits you both. Encourage them to talk and listen. Let them know if you have noticed changes.
If they do not want to talk, let them know they can come to you for support when they’re ready.
HeadsUp has conversation tips, including how to prepare, what to say, and what to do if your team member doesn’t respond as expected.
Watch some tips from RUOK?
Let your employee know that it’s OK to not be OK. Encourage them to contact support services or contact them together, if they need it.
This could be support offered by your workplace like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a mental health support line, their doctor or someone else they trust.
It’s important that your employee feels valued and supported during this time. Make workplace adjustments to support your employee as they recover. This can include:
- changes to days/hours worked
- reduced workload
- changes to tasks or the work environment.
Small changes at work can make a big difference with recovery. You’re also legally obligated to offer them.
Your employee may need to take some time off from work. Stay in touch while they are away and agree on what will be communicated to colleagues.
Discuss, agree and write down the goals together for returning to work. Download a return to work plan template.
Plan to keep in touch regularly, whether your employee is on leave or back at work. Review how their recovery is going and make further changes to their work as needed. Agree on what will be communicated to the rest of the team at work.
Our Recovery at Work toolkit has tips on how to support your team.
As a leader, it is important to set up a clear line of communication with your employees, so they have an opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns.
This could mean setting up regular one-on-one meetings to:
- ensure tasks and responsibilities are clearly understood
- find out how they are managing their workload and if any adjustments need to be made
- discuss any other issues your employee may be having.
How to support your own mental health
Everyone can take care of their own mental health at work by maintaining healthy habits and good communication.
Here are some steps you can take:
Create a routine and set clear boundaries by agreeing on start and finish times with your manager and sticking to them.
Set realistic deadlines with your manager. This will help you deliver work on time and reduce work stress.
Switch off from work by limiting working excess hours and not checking work emails or taking work calls after your designated finish time.
Take regular breaks to stretch, relax and take time away from your daily tasks. This can help you reset and be more productive.
Take your annual leave to spend time with family and friends and have a break from work.
Access support if you need to. Your workplace may have an Employee Assistance Program or there are many free support services you can access.
If you are feeling stressed, overworked, unsure of what your responsibilities are or are experiencing issues that are impacting you at work, make sure that you communicate with your manager or leader so they have an opportunity to support you.
Take the opportunity to be a colleague's 'because of you' person
At any time a colleague could be going through a life event that can impact their mental health and result in them needing support at work. Check out Carley's video below where she emphasises the small things while she recovered at work. 'Because of you' is a series of case studies developed by SIRA's Recovery@Work Reference group that aims to share how people's experiences of recovery at work can support workplace mental health.
Other advice for personal mental health
The Royal Melbourne Hospital offers this advice:
- Connect – Social connections are vital for maintaining good health and wellbeing. Check-in with your colleagues by starting a conversation or getting together for morning tea or lunch.
- Be active – Keep your mind and body active by doing a physical activity you enjoy. Go for a walk on your lunch break or make time to exercise before or after work.
- Keep learning - Trying something new or learning a new skill can build a sense of achievement and build your confidence. Look for opportunities to improve your skills.
- Be aware – Take some time every day to stop notice what happening around you and to be aware of your thoughts and feelings. This can help you feel calm and reduce stress.
- Help others – Doing something for someone else like helping a colleague can help give you a sense of purpose, build friendships and improve your wellbeing.
See the 5 Ways To Wellbeing website for more information from the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Related services, tips and video
Online services and tools
MyCompass is a free online self-help program from the Black Dog Institute for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress.
Mindarma is a 10-session e-learning program designed to enhance mental wellbeing.
Ahead for Business provides mental health support to small business owners.
Hear2Talk provides confidential, independent and skilled phone-based support with a Peer Worker to help manage challenging experiences and emotions.
Websites offering tips
Staying well at work by Headspace.
Taking care of yourself at work by Headsup.
Incorporate the 5 Ways to Wellbeing into your daily work routine.
The icare social connections toolkit can help you build social networks.
If you are experiencing mental ill-health it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and support is available.
If you need support, call one of the following numbers 24/7:
Kids Helpline (for under 25s) – 1800 55 1800
Other ways to get support
If you don’t want to use these services, still talk to someone you trust, like:
your GP, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
a manager, friend or family member
Your workplace may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for free and confidential counselling.
Watch our video to get tips to support your mental health while working from home or remotely.
Headgear is a free, easy-to-use app that guides you through a 30-day mental fitness challenge to improve resilience and wellbeing and prevent things like depression and anxiety.
Smiling Mind is a unique tool developed by psychologists and educators to help bring balance to your life. Practice daily meditation and mindfulness exercises from your phone.
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