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    Learn and grow during Mental Health Month in October

    October 4, 2016 by Alison Hill

    October is Mental Health Month. Even if you are not one of the approximately 45% of Australians who will suffer from a mental health problem at some stage, you are bound to know somebody who does – very likely including a colleague.

    Work is becoming ever more complex and demanding. The scope, scale and speed of businesses is constantly accelerating, as and IBM study in late 2015 found. Over 5000 executives in 70 countries reported that work was always busy, and at times frenetic, and related this to technological disruption and radically different business models as business becomes more competitive.

    It’s no wonder that the World Health Organization describes stress as the ‘global health epidemic of the 21st century.’ Three-quarters of us report feeling moderately to highly stressed by work, according to a Global Corporate Challenge survey of over 4,500 companies, and 36% of employees said they felt ‘highly or extremely stressed at work’.

    Mental Health Month is the ideal time for organisations to focus attention on this problem. Talking about mental health issues is a great way to start, so if your organisation has not put it on the agenda, make this the month you do so. It’s proven to lower health care costs, absenteeism and turnover, and leads to higher productivity. PwC research in 2014 calculated that programs that fostered resilience and a mentally healthy workplace returned $2.30 for every dollar spent.

    Mental health organisation Wellness at Work is offering an online program, which they describe as ‘an easy and inexpensive way for people to build the fundamental skills for facing mental health challenges at work, without needing to disclose their challenges to anyone at work if they don’t wish to.’ The program runs all month, with both paid and free options for participating.

    Here’s a taste of what the program has to offer.

    How to move from functioning to flourishing at work & in life

    Positive psychology expert Michelle McQuaid  presents this talk about how a growing body of evidence is finding that there are small, practical, excuse-proof steps you can take to improve your chances of consistently flourishing.

    Managing work intensity – how to maintain your wellbeing in a fast-paced workplace

    This one acknowledges that work can become too busy and too intense. Psychologist Nicole Plotkin will share some simple strategies for staying calm, managing your stress and keeping a clear head – even when there’s chaos all around you.

    This one looks like a winner: Difficult people made easy: how to handle challenging interpersonal situations at work.

    Hear Eleanor Shakiba, author of Difficult People Made Easy explain three simple tools for handling toxic team dynamics, challenging customer behaviours or emotionally fraught conversations.

    Psychologist, bullying expert, author and speaker Evelyn Field OAM  talks about Understanding workplace bullying… and how to deal with it. Hear why it occurs, the damage it causes to employees and organisations, and what employees, managers and organisations can do to prevent bullying and manage it respectfully when it occurs.

    Also from Wellness at Work is How to build resilience to job burnout. Adele Sinclair explains that burnout is a distinct condition, different to stress and exhaustion. In this talk, Adele will share what she has learned from her own multiple experiences of job burnout and how you can protect yourself from having similar experiences.

    See the full program at http://wellnessatwork.com.au/expo-fr-lounge/

    Of course there are many ways to learn and grow your awareness of mental health issues at work. There are many websites, books and apps that can help with stress, particularly those that present structured approaches to mindfulness.  Read Fully Present: The Art, Science and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston, or Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Danny Penman and Mark Williams. Useful apps include Headspace and Simple Habit. Find more on the Dummies website.

    The challenge is to go further than this, argues Carlo Caponecchia, Senior Lecturer in the School of Aviation at UNSW. He writes on The Conversation that ‘Workplaces need to move beyond promoting mental health awareness and start changing the way work is designed to prevent psychological harm… By all means raise awareness, support people, and show them where to get further help. But re-design a policy, consult about new supervision practices, challenge a long-held cultural belief, and maybe everyone’s mental health at work will improve just a little.’

     


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