Workplaces need proactive approach to mental health

Published in MyBusiness 9th January 2020

In light of the release of the draft report, CEO of AccessEAP Sally Kirkright highlights the important role that managers play in the support of their employees, stating that businesses “must take a stance against mental health”.

“While diseases and physical conditions tend to affect older generations, mental ill health inhibits our working lives, limiting the ability to secure and retain employment,” Ms Kirkright said.

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Combatting Feelings of Festive Isolation

For many, Christmas is a joyous time, full of gift-giving and parties with friends and family. Unfortunately, for people who rely on work for social connection, the season can be far from merry.

More than 2 million Australians feel socially isolated during the festive period[1]. While loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, it can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be a significant risk factor to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. This issue can be exacerbated by a lack of workplace relationships and the sense of purpose our jobs give us. Supportive social relationships and a sense of control which one feels at work can help make people more resilient.

The holidays can be an isolating time that some may even dread for fear of being alone. AccessEAP can provide out of hours support for employees, so it’s important for employers and managers to remind teams of this resource over the holidays.

The potential combination of stressful Christmas activities and isolation can be reduced by pausing, making plans, being mindful, and taking time to relax. The past few months have been particularly challenging for many Australian families with losses of life, animals and property due to devastating bushfires. More recently the tragic New Zealand volcano incident will leave many families grieving instead of sharing the holidays together. For these people, grief, loss and feelings of isolation will be intense and may require long term support.

Below is advice on how to take care of yourself over the festive season.

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Self Motivation and Goal Setting for 2020

Start the year off well, with our tips for self motivation.

1. Revisit your New Year’s resolutions

2. Think of undesirable tasks as a means to an end

3. Think about all the ways in which your job benefits others

4. Set goals

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New Year's Resolutions, Working for You?

Chances are, at some time in your life, you've made New Year Resolutions and then broken them only to repeat the cycle the following year. It is common for people to get caught up in a pattern of resolving to make important changes across life and then not following through. This year, keeping these few simple tips in mind may help to increase your chances of success.

Pick Realistic Goals

The surest way to fall short of your new year’s resolution is to set your goals too high. Remember to keep your goals realistic, small and achievable.

Define Those Goals

A common pitfall for people is that they are too vague about what they want to achieve. Spending time developing a specific, concrete action plan with the details of each small step will help increase your chances of success.

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Do you have 2020 vision for the year ahead?

Welcome to 2020 – a new year and a new decade. As we begin a new decade it is important to acknowledge and talk about the extreme conditions we are experiencing in Australia, intense heat, drought, bushfires which have resulted in devastating losses of life and homes. As I write this the fires are continuing to burn into January. Whether directly or indirectly impacted it is natural to feel sad and apprehensive about the situation. During this time, it is important to acknowledge and allow yourself to feel these feelings and to know that support is available at any time.  
 
I would like to express my gratitude to the emergency personnel and all the volunteers who have fought and supported us through this bushfire crisis. I would also like to acknowledge the people who are not directly involved in fighting the fires but who provide the support and assistance to those fighting fires, protecting animals and offering shelter.  
We are here to provide immediate phone support to any employees or managers who have questions or need support. For more information and support for individuals and managers see our downloadable support documents here. 
 
It is important to look out for others but I really encourage you to make sure you look after yourself as well. Self care is extremely important in times of sadness and stress and so if you can, I urge you to take a moment for yourself and reflect on the past year. Whether you call it, a new year’s resolution or your 2020 goals, planning out the year and setting positive, achievable goals can help provide focus for the year ahead.  
 
It seems, for many of us, our new year resolutions, made with enthusiasm and determination, soon fall to the wayside. We often get carried away with excitement, setting our resolutions without a plan of action on how we will achieve those goals. If you wavered on the promises you made to yourself - or even if you didn't make any - January is a great month to reflect on the past twelve months and set objectives for the year ahead.
 
Every year I have a tradition, I grab my journal, find a quiet space and give myself time to think about what I really want to achieve. I usually think about it both in the context of work and personal and what will help me learn and grow in the coming year.
Here are some questions I ask myself: 
  • What's the most important thing to you? 
  • What were your highlights for 2019?
  • What would you like this year to look like?
  • If you could only make one change, what would it be?
  • What do you want to do more of? 
  • What would you like to change? 
  • What obstacles do you need to overcome? 
These questions help me to define and decide on the top two or three things that are important to me. The second part is to build and develop a plan of how I will work towards and achieve my items. Your plan should include milestones and dates that you want to achieve them. This makes it more real and concrete. If you do this and put your plan somewhere that you can refer to it regularly, you are more likely to achieve your aims e.g. on your fridge for personal and or for work, somewhere visible on your desk (I write mine in my journal and identify it as a reference page). If you cannot see it then it is easy to forget or become distracted.  
 
Don't forget to celebrate each milestone that you achieve. Make time each week (put it in your calendar) to look at your plan and get on track or feel good about what you have achieved.  Remember, every small step gets us closer to our destination. And if you haven't achieved that milestone? Think about why that may be so and if there was anything you could do differently. It is also so important to remember to be kind to yourself during this process especially if you experience a setback, don’t dwell on it, reset and move forward. 
 
If you are reading this a little later in January, it’s not too late to do this exercise. Do it this weekend. So when New Year’s Eve rolls around once again, and it always does so quickly, you will be able to reflect upon the year that was and hopefully tick off a few more goals than the year before.
 
Finally here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2020
 
1. I will be grateful to those who teach me important lessons by, for instance, letting me know when I am not interacting with curiosity and grace.
2. I will stop, take a breathe and be thankful for all that I have
3. I will, through mindfulness and practising, achieve a new lower golf handicap
4. I will remember we are all in this together
 
Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

The most amazing miracle of every New Year is this: In the New Year, great things will always happen to us! Here, the New Year makes us taste this wonderful feeling, and this feeling gives us power!― Mehmet Murat ildan

As a trusted partner your EAP is here to help: Remind your employees about their confidential EAP service and let us help you support your people. For further guidance call our Manager Support Hotline on 1800 818 728.

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Virtual Counsellor Hub

This position is for person-centred, short term-solution focussed counselling to employees from and around Australia. We need a generalist who is able to deal with all presentations in an appropriate and ethical way and to formulate focussed psychological strategies alongside the clients. This particular role is phone/video based and allows for the professional to be home based with flexibility around hours. 

Additionally you will: 

  • Provide counselling and support to people making contact through diverse access modes 
  • Adhere to best practice clinical protocols in working with clients 
  • Promote safety, trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment 
  • Work cooperatively with a creative and agile team 
  • Attend to self-care by attending professional development and regular supervision 


Skills Required

You have a background in providing counselling and/or in mental health to a range of different age and demographics. You are flexible, can work in a fast paced, pressured environment with fluctuating demands, and meet the unique demands arising from the client’s needs.

Additionally you have:

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Workplaces Need to Stand Up to Australian Mental Health Crisis

A crisis in the mental health of Australia is costing the economy between $43bn to $51bn per year, according to a draft paper by the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission.

The Mental Health, Draft Report [1] revealed that beyond this alarming statistic, an approximate $130bn additional cost is created by diminished health and reduced life expectancy for the one in five Australians living with psychological conditions.

The draft highlights the complexities around defining a mentally healthy workplace but acknowledges the recognised risk factors and stressors that can impact mental health in the workplace. The role of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and the importance of investing in research and evaluating outcomes were also identified.

Workplaces must take a stance against mental ill-health. While diseases and physical conditions tend to affect older generations, mental ill-health inhibits our working lives, limiting the ability to secure and retain employment.

There are four main job-related factors that exacerbate psychological conditions, including: job demand and control, caused by a lack of control over highly cognitively and/or emotionally demanding jobs; a perceived imbalance between effort and rewards; job insecurity and exposure to trauma.

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How to look after employees over the festive season

Published in Human Resources Director 18th December 2019

The festive season can be a joyous time, full of gift giving and parties with friends and family.

However, for many people who rely on work for social connection, the season can be far from merry.

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director, AccessEAP, said that while loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, it can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be a significant risk factor to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

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AccessEAP Associates December 2019 Newsletter

Hi Everyone,

Firstly, AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

This is our last quarterly newsletter for the year and as the temperature is soaring today it reminds me of how quickly the summer heat comes upon us. I was noticing this week how many people are telling me of their holiday and travel plans and the lunch preparations they have for the Christmas feast. As many of you have already told me of your work plans for December, this last part will not apply to you. If however, you haven’t let us know yet please keep an eye out for the email from our friendly customer service team.

It is a very happy time for some of us but I would like to formally acknowledge that everybody has a different circumstance. If this is a tough time for you please do look after yourself. As clinicians sometimes we just keep going and don’t take time to see what self care is for us–this is a gentle nudge to remember to practice self care, book in some supervision and set some boundaries. While we are on self care I’m really interested in what you all do to relax and so I would ask you to send in your best tip or trick that you have for unwinding at the end of the year.                         

It is important to remember that for those of us who are the heart of the family; a holiday feast at the end of the year can mean more work! One of my friends sends me this picture every year as to remind me to take a step back, relax and let the chores wait! If you are not the heart of the family, take a step forward and give that person a break.

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Support for customers impacted by the White Island volcano eruption

As you may be aware on Monday the 9th of December there was a volcanic eruption on White Island, New Zealand. Our thoughts are with those who are impacted, as always we are here to support your people. Following a traumatic event, it is common to experience a range of intense emotions. It’s important to be aware that everyone responds differently and everyone’s needs will be different, initially and over time. 

Organisations play a vital and valuable role in assisting and supporting their employees and their families in the immediate aftermath and moving forward. Being prepared to provide initial and long term support for people will enhance and promote their own personal coping strategies and resilience.

To support those that may have been affected by the event we have included documents for individual strategies (download pdf here) and tips as well as information for managers and leaders (download pdf here).

Should your managers need additional support as they support your employees during this time, please call the Manager Support Hotline. To arrange the Manager Support call, an appointment or onsite support please contact us on 1800 818 728 or in New Zealand 0800 327 669.

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Our support and commitment are unwavering through White Ribbon changes

With the recent closure and now new ownership of White Ribbon Australia announced, I wanted to reassure our customers that nothing has changed in terms of the support and training we provide. However, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on what the White Ribbon name has come to mean for domestic violence.

It’s important to note that White Ribbon (WR) started with men taking up the challenge to do something about men’s violence against women and has continued to specifically engage men in this cause. WR explores the underlying reasons that violence against women continues to be a major social and economic issue in Australia and around the world.

This movement has a history dating back to 1981 but came into being in response to the Dec 1989 Montreal Massacre of 14 female students. WR was founded and a white ribbon chosen to represent peace as well as being a neutral colour men would be comfortable wearing. In 1992, the movement was brought to Australia by the Men Against Sexual Assualt (MASA) group. This incredibly powerful history of men and women working together to eliminate men’s violence against women must continue without pause. As leaders, we are in a position to ensure this happens.

At AccessEAP we are undergoing the accreditation process and will continue the process as we recognise the important work of the international White Ribbon movement. Regardless of what the new WR will look like violence against women is a pressing and prevalent issue within our society and our commitment to continue with the accreditation process stands firm. 

As a White Ribbon approved training provider we will continue to provide Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Training. We have received positive feedback from organisations that we have supported in achieving their accreditation and raising awareness on this matter. For organisations that are considering the accreditation process or are in the process of doing so, AccessEAP encourages all organisations to continue addressing and raising awareness of such an important issue. 

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How to improve mental health in workforces

Published in Human Resources Director 6th December 2019.

Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP, said workplaces must take a stance against mental ill-health.

“Businesses need to be mindful of the impact they have on employees’ mental wellbeing through the job itself, workplace culture and organisational support including recognition, stigma and the physical environment,” added Kirkright.

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Prevent burnout

Published in INTHEBLACK 1st December 2019.

Marcela Slepica, director of clinical services at AccessEAP, says burnout is now occurring in a broader range of sectors. “There has always been burnout in certain industries, such as the caring professions or first responders – police or emergency medics – but I now see it moving into other industries, including professional services.”

Slepica says workload, constant change and workers feeling misunderstood by senior managers are common complaints.

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It’s time to change the conversation about mental health in the workplace - a comment from Sally Kirkright - CEO AccessEAP

There has been a significant increase in the number of conversations about mentally healthy workplaces in Australia in recent weeks. This is largely due to the release of the Productivity Commission’s draft report into Mental Health. As a founding member of the EAP industry in Australia, AccessEAP welcomes the recommendation that “Psychological health and safety should be given the same importance in workplace health and safety laws as physical health and safety.” This is a significant shift in how we as employers manage our workplaces but it’s a shift we have been working towards with our customers. With an estimated cost associated with mental ill health and suicide to the Australian economy between $43 and $51 billion per year, governments will take this opportunity to change policy direction. For employers, lower economic participation and lost productivity represents approximately 23% to 33% of this cost.1

The draft report’s introduction highlights the complex nature of workplace mental health but fails to recognise the function of full service EAPs.

“There is limited evidence of what actually constitutes a ‘good’ workplace or a ‘good’ job in terms of mental health, but there are a number of recognised risk factors or stressors that are specific to the workplace that can undermine the mental health of those in the workplace.”

There are no real surprises in the draft report however AccessEAP challenge the Productivity Commission’s view on the role EAP’s have to play. There is a widely held misconception that an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is merely a counselling service. That view of an EAP is outdated. Today’s EAP industry responds to the changing nature of work and provides solutions to meet the current needs of employees and workplaces. Organisational and workforce needs are evolving to remain relevant and respond to the unprecedented levels of disruption, change in workplace demographics and expectations of employees and employers. Working with organisations, we have seen the increasing sophistication of your people and the expectation of a workplace culture to support ALL your people. In partnership with our customers we co-create people solutions tailored to unique needs. Just as with individuals, no two organisations are exactly the same. The solutions require a degree of curiosity to learn the intricacies of your organisation, teams and individuals, ensure the best possible alignment between expectations and services and deliver a return on investment.

Last week Urbis and the iCare Foundation released a research report demonstrating that for every $1 invested in mental health in the workplace, $65 in social and economic benefits can be created2. We know that it makes good business sense to include human capital management as a core strategic priority and most leaders agree that a businesses success depends upon the people within it.

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Mindfulness for Parents, Being Present

We are constantly faced with numerous distractions, but making a conscious effort to “be present” for your children has been identified as an important part of parenting. Our undivided attention is often at a premium but setting aside time to connect with your child is like anything; it gets easier with practice and improves on each occasion.

If you’re not sure where to start, see if our tips can help you out.  

  1. Slow down.

Rushing often leads to miscommunication. Slowing down helps to allow time to think things through and react less. Children thrive when parents are consistent in the messages they give around discipline, values and the child’s important place in the family. Dedicating time together, without a particular plan or agenda allows for the things that your children want or need to tell you, surface. 

  1. Smell the roses.

Stopping to smell the roses is one way of slowing down and appreciating the little things. Mindfulness practice takes this concept and runs with it. Notice the aroma of your coffee in the morning or the kid’s warm chocolate milk, the laughter or singing of children and the silly things they say, the texture of a pet’s fur under your touch. Noticing sensory experiences can help to keep you in the present moment. It can also help to recognise and acknowledge happy moments by saying them out loud, kids will feel it but when it is said out loud it is powerfully reinforced.

  1. Single-task.

Despite popular thinking, none of us are made for multi-tasking [1]. Undivided attention is just that and it can be incredibly rewarding to be single-minded in your approach to time with your children. It allows the subtle nuances of a situation to be recognised and celebrated and curiosity and creativity to flourish.

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Staying Calm and Connected this December

As we approach the December period and prepare for the festivities, it’s easy to become distracted with long ‘to-do’ lists; calendars booked up with extra social events and perhaps finalising work in preparation for a well-earned break. These distractions can impact on our relationships with the people we care about most, so here are some tips for maintaining positive relationships during the festive season.

  1. Take Time to be Present
  1. Give Hugs
  1. Acknowledge Feelings First
  1. Give Compliments
  1. Re-connect
  1. Find Common Ground
  1. Be Inclusive
  1. Respond don’t React
  1. Connect to Values
  1. Add Humour

For the full tips, download our Postcard: 10 Tips for Staying Calm & Connected

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Support through the Festive Season

AccessEAP wishes you all the best for the Festive Season. We appreciate the opportunity to work with you and look forward to another great year creating mentally healthy workplaces in 2020.

Please be assured our counselling and onsite services are available 24/7, 365 days a year however our other business functions observe the Australian public holidays and a short break from 25th December to 2nd January 2020.

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Loneliness through the festive season

Humans are naturally social creatures, and contact is necessary for wellbeing. While the holiday season is painted as a joyous, busy time with gift-giving, parties and holidays, for some people the festive season can be a time of sadness and loneliness.

There is pressure to have fun, spend time with family and loved ones but for many people, this time of the year reminds them of those they may have lost or who are ill and struggling. Often the message we receive is that everyone is happy but it’s the time of the year where sad feelings become magnified.

December is usually a month for an increase in the number of people seeking professional counselling services for depression and suicidal ideation. Lifeline is expecting more than 28,000 Australians to reach out to Lifeline’s helpline over the Christmas period.

If you are heading into the holiday season feeling lonely, recognise that many of us suffer from loneliness, especially if we have been through a bereavement, a relationship breakdown, are estranged from family or suffer from physical or mental health challenges. It’s easy for our minds to get caught up in what we do not have as opposed to what we do.

Try to avoid the hype, acknowledge that it’s a hard time of the year. Think about activities and things you can do to help you get through this time.

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New podcast: suicide awareness in response to VIC legislation

Recent news on workplace manslaughter laws, introduced to Victorian state government earlier this month, raise difficult questions regarding the responsibilities and requirements of employers to proactively support mental health and safety in workplaces.

As reported in The Age “the laws will cover deaths caused by mental injuries, including trauma from bullying or other forms of abuse, sustained on the job as well as accidents and illnesses caused by unsafe workplaces. The new legislation will apply to all employers in public and private companies whose negligence resulted in a death of an employee, be that by providing a dangerous workplace or failing to provide appropriate mental support."

At AccessEAP, our customers already demonstrate a commitment to safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of their people. However, we believe this current proposed amendment to legislation will further define the responsibilities of employers in this area. We are developing resources to start a conversation with and between our customers to help understand the potential impact of the legislation and proactive approaches to implement in the workplace.

The first of these resources is now available in the form of a podcast on Suicide Awareness and Psychological Safety in the Workplace.

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Support for parents of teens

Teenage years are characterised by rapid learning, risk-taking, building relationships and establishing a sense of self. Parents are often bombarded with news articles on the very real dangers of alcohol-fuelled accidents and violence, party drug experimentation and risky behaviours. Particularly at this time as teenagers come to the end of their schooling and participate in “schoolies” and Summer music festivals, parents worry about risky behaviours becoming dangerous.

As parents, it is important to keep the communication open, to talk through choices and consequences, to show understanding about risk-taking and partying. We want our kids to make choices, to not be afraid to say “no” and to call us, as parents, if they are in trouble or scared. It is important to talk to them about looking out for each other, not to leave their friends alone or with strangers.  

This stage of development is intense for our teens as they experience significant brain and hormonal changes whilst navigating external demands and influences from peers, teachers, parents, carers and of course, ever-present and unforgiving social media. We are witnessing an exponential increase in mental health issues among teens. So how can we support teens to proactively manage stress through these tumultuous times?

Good sleep

Poor sleep often accompanies stressful times. Teenagers experiencing stress might lie awake worrying at night and be too tired to function well the next day. This can set up a poor sleep pattern. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends these tips to help your child establish healthy sleeping patterns: avoid screen time an hour before bed and encourage reading or listening to relaxing music instead to help wind down; support your teen to establish and stick to a routine around bed and wake-up times; encourage them to get around 7.5 hours of sleep per night, which is the optimum amount of time for teenagers. Read more here.

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indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away
.

indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away.