The impact of the workplace on our mental health can never be underestimated - staff at all levels want to make it clear where the line is between their work life and home life, and the conversation around a healthy work/life balance should be held at all levels across an organisation.
Mental health problems can not only occur or manifest at work, but the workplace is often where early warning signs and symptoms can get noticed first. At least one in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy, and this number doubles among those who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy.
Lending a hand at work and beyond
The Mental Health First Aid® Workplace Recognition Program celebrates organisations across Australia who invest in developing mental health first aid skills in their people.
Lendlease is a global property and construction company headquartered in Sydney and one of the longest running supporters of the MHFA Workplace program, with over 800* people actively trained in mental health first aid.
The construction industry – with a traditionally male-dominated workplace culture and various wellbeing risk factors – is among the industries with the highest incidence of psychological distress and suicide. In Australia, death by suicide in the construction industry, is six times higher than death by site related workplace accidents (Australian Construction Blueprint, 2018).
The progress shown by Lendlease in implementing preventative and interventional well-being initiatives have played a major role in keeping individuals safe and thriving, at work, home and in their communities. Jason McGovern, Business Engagement and Program Manager, Lendlease Foundation, said MHFA was selected as their chosen mental health training program to help support the psychological safety of people within the company.
“MHFA Australia provides research-based programs that have been evaluated in delivering the outcomes Lendlease wants for our people and communities. It’s about… breaking down the stigma of mental illness in the construction industry,” Jason said.
“We know that workplace safety is equal parts physical and psychological wellbeing.”
Since 2015, the principles of mental health first aid have become an ongoing component of how Lendlease operates. They have aimed to have a Mental Health First Aider (MHFAider) at every site, office, centre, project, or asset that they own or operate as part of Lendlease’s Global Minimum Requirements.
MHFA training has been embedded into their safety management systems and processes, and they’ve made courses and upskilling highly accessible to all staff. Their MHFA Instructors are also strategically selected to meet this demand and provide local-area knowledge.
According to Jason, it didn’t take long after piloting the program, to begin seeing the benefits to participants. Feedback from their Injury Care and Recovery team, who regularly support those with work-related and non-work-related injuries and illnesses – including mental health problems – has indicated that managers and their teams are notionally more confident in dealing with and supporting those experiencing mental health problems.
“This is having very positive outcomes for our employees who are receiving the support, as they feel heard, understood and less judged no matter what they are going through,” Jason said.
An important element of the program for Lendlease has been its application beyond the workplace as well. Staff supporting other staff is essential, but they have also seen employees take their newfound skills out into the community – supporting family, friends and others.
There is now a network of 426* active MHFAiders from Lendlease in Australia, and since completing their training, 75% say they have gone on to support a family member, friend, or someone else in their community, while 52% have supported a colleague in person, and 22% have used their skills to support a colleague virtually (Lendlease, MHFA Network Survey, 2020 n=186).
This all amounts to a significant real-life impact from people helping people. By educating and skilling Australia’s workplaces in positive conversations and actions around mental health support, MHFA can have broader positive impacts across our diverse communities.