Selling remediation as prevention is dishonest

Regular readers of, and subscribers to, this blog know that I am a strong advocate for the prevention of suicides, especially those related to work. Mental illness is not always connected to suicides but there is often a correlation between, mental stress, self-harm, suicide ideation and suicides. as such it is useful to keep an eye on suicide statistics, particularly in industries or times of great stress.

In early December 2020, Victoria’s Minister for Mental Health, James Merlino, addressed the Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) to discuss the 2020-21 Budget Estimates. At that time, Merlino made some clear statements about the rates of suicides, which are useful to remember when evaluating suicide and mental illness prevention strategies like those mentioned in the Productivity Commission’s recent inquiry into Mental Health.

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‘No Bystanders Rule’​ Bullshit

Guest Post by Dr Rebecca Michalak

About couple of weeks ago, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) featured a piece on a law firm that had introduced a mandatory approach to reporting sexual harassment – referred to as a ‘no bystanders’ rule. 

To be clear upfront, here is my disclaimer – I am not directly commenting on the law firm in question; there isn’t enough information in the articles to make any objective judgements on that front. The references used from the two media pieces are for illustrative purposes only. Call them ‘conversation starters.’

In the AFR piece, the contractual obligation was outlined to involve: 

“…chang(ing) ‘should’ (report) to ‘must’ – so any staff member who experiences, witnesses, or becomes aware of sexual harassment must report it,” 

with the affiliated claim being,

“That shift really reinforces that there is zero tolerance – and there are no confidences to be kept; it needs to be outed – bystanders [staying silent] will no longer be tolerated.

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Work-related mental health remains contentious

This article is about SafeWorkNSW’s recently released Draft Code of Practice for Managing the Risks to Psychological Health, but it is not going to focus on the Code.  Instead the focus will be on the supplementary Explanatory Paper because this presents the rationale for the Code’s contents and, in many ways, is a more useful tool for occupational health and safety (OHS) discussions. However, just as the Code has structural and legislative limitations as part of its Purpose, the Explanatory Paper is a support document for submissions on the Draft Code and therefore has its own limitations.

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Each new inquiry into work-related suicide needs to build on the findings of the previous

It is a common response by businesses and governments to respond to an incident or an issue by imposing a new level of control. Over time, this leads to confusion, clutter and a perception that action is more complex than it could be. Responses to work-related suicide are a good example of this and the recent announcement by the Australian Government of a permanent National Commission into veteran suicides is the latest, but it needs to be more than what has gone before.

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Resilience training remains contentious

The issue of resilience training and its role in managing workplace mental health continues to confuse at a recent mental health conference.

Yesterday, several experts were critical of resilience training or, more accurately, the over-reliance on worker-focussed interventions when evidence shows that more sustainable benefits are obtainable by addressing the structural factors leading to poor mental health at work. One of the experts specifically said that resilience training may be relevant to emergency services workers where their workplaces are so dynamic that it is almost impossible to anticipate mental health hazards.

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What does a psychological near miss look like?

This week a workplace mental conference has been running in Sydney with some excellent speakers. The theme is to improve integrated approaches to workplace mental health in the belief that progress can be most effective when workplace silos and professional disciplines share information and actively listen.

However, resistance to change continues and silos continue to exist even if the interconnecting bridges are half-formed. One half-formed bridge was illustrated when I put this question to a panel discussion:

“What does a psychological near-miss look like?”

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Australia flags more inclusive strategies for suicide prevention

In late January 2020, the Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, announced new funding for suicide prevention programs. As the announcement occurred during the increasing concerns over the coronavirus, media attention to the funding announcement was minimal and this overlooked an important shift in suicide prevention strategies.

Six months ago the Prime Minister appointed Christine Morgan as his Suicide Prevention Adviser. As part of the funding announcement, Morgan spoke about a major change to suicide prevention strategies that acknowledges that not all suicides result from mental illness – a reality that has been emphasised by some Australian researchers for over several years. Significantly Christine Morgan is reported in Newscorp media as saying:

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