Taking mental health at work seriously

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michaelRunning your own business can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners having sole responsibility for the company’s success or failure, cash flow and people management can take its toll.

I know full well that business owners do put their business first, health second. Some are in tears on their way to work only to walk in, smile, and pretend everything is OK. Many business owners also lose their social life because of the workload.

Mental health costs Australian businesses an estimated $10.9 billion annually. According to research by Beyond Blue, one in five Australian workers has taken time off work in the past year due to feeling mentally unwell.

But the cost isn’t just an economic one. Managing people or dealing with the overarching stress of cash flow problems can be the catalyst for mental health issues and exacerbate any underlying conditions.

This is the unpleasant side to owning a business, the side that needs to be talked about. So what can you do?

• Increase awareness of mental health conditions. Make information about mental health conditions available in the workplace.

• Increase awareness of people’s responsibilities relating to mental health. Provide staff with information about looking after their own mental health and their legal responsibilities relating to mental health.

• Reduce Stigma. Speak openly about mental health conditions in the workplace and encourage others to do the same. Monitor and manage workloads. Encourage your people to speak up at an early stage and seek guidance.

• Build the skills and confidence to approach someone who may be experiencing difficulties. Check how to have a conversation with a staff member who you may be concerned about and encourage staff to look out for each other.

• Encourage staff with mental health conditions to seek treatment and support early. Also support staff with mental health conditions to stay at or return to work.

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