Mental Health In The Workplace With Georgie Harman, CEO of beyondblue

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Georgie Harman, CEO of beyondblue about the actions that contribute to mentally healthy workplaces.

I recorded the discussion which you can listen to here and/or, take a look at some of the notes taken from the recording below.

beyondblue provides access to information, tools, help lines and other support strategies in order to meet its vision which is for everyone to achieve their best possible mental health.

Because ‘mentally healthy workplaces work better for everyone’, beyondblue has created the Heads Up Program which provides individuals and businesses free tools and resources to plan and take action towards creating mentally healthy workplaces. Georgie Harman noted that:

  • Leadership and communication are the two most important factors in creating mentally healthy workplaces. If those in leadership positions are not on board and don’t treat mental health as a business improvement program, then organisations ought not bother implementing any programs to improve mental health in the workplace. 
  • We don’t need to have all the right ‘technical’ words in order to communicate in an empathetic way. Discussions about suicide and depression for example, can be broached by having an authentic intention.
  • David Hall, outgoing Jetstar CEO sought input from staff on what a mentally healthy Jetstar workplace would look like and was overwhelmed by the amount of supportive feedback he got from staff at all levels.
  • If you’re a leader or business owner who believes that you don’t employ someone with a mental illness, it’s simply not true. 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with a mental illness. 
  • Great leadership is needed to change the culture that there is no difference between physical and mental safety within the workplace as both are equally important. Symptoms or diagnoses of mental health problems should be given the same level of care and attention as physical health problems.
  • As business leaders we get more engagement from our employees if we provide them with a safe, fun environment where it’s okay to be vulnerable and they know they will be supported.
  • Mentally healthy workplaces are much more harmonious and productive workplaces. 
  • Independent studies conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2014 revealed there is a strong business case for investing in mental health within the workplace. For every $1 invested in mental health strategies within the organisation the business will on average see a return of $2.30 through reduced absenteeism, reduced worker’s compensation claims and improved productivity, amongst other things.
  • Creating a culture within the workplace where debate and constructive conflict are viewed as positive encourages healthy, respectful debate which can generate some of the best ideas.
Georgie Harman's top 5 characteristics of a harmonious workplace: 

1. There is no distinction between physical health and safety and mental health and safety. Each is treated as seriously as the other.

2. Everyone is encouraged to talk openly about mental health.

3. People who have a diagnosis of a mental health issue are supported by the organisation and their peers.

4. Risks of mental health are identified and mitigated

5. Discrimination, bullying and harassment are not supported.

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