R U OK? in the workplace

As part of R U OK? Day September 14, 2017 Australians are being encouraged to share their mental health concerns with their employers. 

According to organisers the public awareness campaign aims to reduce the number of suicides in Australia and start a conversation about mental health. 

Recent ABS data found that 3027 people died by suicide in 2015, the highest number on record, which equates to more than eight deaths by suicide every day. 

One Australian study found that 17% of suicides in Victoria from 2000-2007 were work-related. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people and occurs among men at a rate three times greater than that for women. 

For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives — that’s approximately 65,300 suicide attempts each year. 

Workplace Mental Health Institute founder Pedro Diaz told news.com.au that recent research by his organisation conducted about mental illness in the workplace is particularly alarming. 

“Almost 50% of the people we surveyed said if their boss asked ‘Are you OK?’ and they weren’t, they would not tell their boss,” Diaz told news.com.au. 

That compares to 70% who said that if a friend asked them the same question, they would be honest. 

“We spend most of our time at work and it can be a really good place. You can give to others and that can be good for your mental health,” said Diaz. 

“But it can also be a place where are judged a lot. Are you good enough? Are you part of the tribe? If you don’t behave in a certain way, you may not be. It can be a place where you are rejected a lot.” 

Diaz says there is a direct correlation between the large number of men who take their own lives and society’s expectation on men to be strong, stable breadwinners. 

“Three quarters of all suicides are men and when you think about what work means to men … I don’t think men have moved very much from the idea that the are supposed to be the protectors.” 

“The workplace is where a lot of men get that sense of being appreciated or belonging and that affects their identity. If they’re not feeling valued, the lack of status and lack of respect can drive them to despair.” 

Diaz told news.com.au that it’s important that employers are emotionally open with their employees, both male and female. 

“People feel valued when the boss values them. The boss might be a nice person, but not have been trained on how to express value to people in an effective way. That value needs to be communicated on a regular basis.” 

“Also, do you have zero tolerance for lack of respect, bullying and harassment? Those are the aspects to consider and bosses need to manage in a workplace. Usually it’s a communication issue. From a business perspective, that’s a big problem. That’s a lot of people that you’re missing.”



Image sourced from Flickr cc: Newtown Graffiti

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