Australia’s mental health industry is in transition

Dr Ian Hickie is a well-respected and knowledgeable advocate of mental health. His CV shows extensive experience in this area since the 1980s. Recently Dr Hickie spoke to the Australian Financial Review about EY’s announcement of a review into its workplace culture following the death by suicide of one of EY’s employees at their offices. The article (paywalled) seems to show a change in traditional approaches to mental health in workplaces, but the change needs to be much more significant and broader.

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Plants, cake and mental health

On mental health, a clinical psychologist, Dr Sanah Ahsan wrote in The Guardian recently that:

“…. I’ve seen first hand how we are failing people by locating their problems within them as some kind of mental disorder or psychological issue, and thereby depoliticising their distress.”

The Guardian, 6 September 2022

This perspective, enlightened for psychologists, is an established position for the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) advocates. But OHS advocates have been traditionally weak and sometimes timid outside of the trade union movement. Most employers will pay more attention to the OHS position on mental health when it is spoken by one of their own or by a more respected professional.

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Multidisciplinary approach to work-related suicides (Open Access)

Recently Denmark hosted the 19th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour. Workplace suicide was on the agenda, and SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to pose some questions to a leader in suicide research, Professor Sarah Waters. Below is an illustrative extract:

“….If we reduce suicide to a mental health problem that is located in the mind, then there is no need to question the wider social structures and power relationships in which the individual is embedded. Suicide in my view is a political and a societal problem that is shaped by the wider social forces of which the individual forms part….”

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Traditional suicide prevention strategies struggle for relevance

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Many organisations are and will be, releasing information about suicides but not really the prevention of suicides, more the management of potential suicides. It is a curious international day as it is almost a warm-up to Mental Health Day (and, in some places, Month).

This week Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) released a report based on a survey of 283 responses, the majority from members of SPA. It’s not a representative survey, but it gained a fair bit of media attention. It also raises consideration of the meaning of a “whole-of-government” approach and the role of Regulations in preventing suicides.

Regardless of the peculiar survey sample, the media release accompanying offered a statement that should have all mental health and suicide prevention professionals reassessing their strategies.

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Webinar of insight and update

Recently 700 people registered for a webinar conducted by Herbert Smith Freehills on work health and safety reforms, primarily on psychosocial risks at work. These risks were presented in various inquiries into sexual harassment, fly-in fly-out work practices but also generated new regulations, guidances and codes.

Steve Bell spoke about the responses from occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators to these issues and said:

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New book aims to spur the US to action on workplace mental health

A new book on workplace psychological hazards and laws has been published. The book “Managing Psychosocial Hazards and Work-Related Stress in Today’s Work Environment – International Insights for US Organizations” written by Ellen Pinkus Cobb, has a similar format to her coverage of international sexual harassment laws in a previous publication. Many occupational health and safety-related books written in the United States suffer from American parochialism. Cobb’s book is written for US organisations to show what workplace health and safety achievements are possible. The book is a very good summary of international changes in workplace psychosocial hazards.

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New mental health code and regulations

Last week Safe Work Australia released its “Managing psychosocial hazards at work – Code of Practice“. It offers solid guidance on psychosocial hazards reflective of the work already conducted by Victoria, New South Wales and other jurisdictions and in support of the new regulations in the Model Work Health and Safety laws. In connection with a blog article earlier today, the Code provides some insight into cognitive demands.

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