Day 1 of the Australian Labor Party conference was fascinating but unsatisfying in terms of debate on occupational health and safety matters so I spoke with one of the many exhibitors at the conference.
Glen Poole is the CEO of the Australian Men’s Health Forum and the podcast below includes a brief discussion of the importance of men’s health and the relevance of the workplace in generating and managing workplace mental health.
Earlier this week former chair of the Australian Government’s National Mental Health Commission, Allan Fels (pictured right) addressed a lunch hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The topicality of his presentation stemmed from two major inquiries into mental health – one by the Federal Government and undertaken by the Productivity Commission (PC), the other is a Royal Commission from the Victorian Government. The breadth of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the PC inquiry has generated a very broad level of interest across the social spectrum. The Royal Commission ToR are yet to be released.
Fels acknowledged the role that workplaces have in addressing mental health
The Australian Government has released the terms of reference into its Productivity Commission inquiry into mental health. The inquiry has broad aims that clearly include occupational health and safety (OHS) and may set some evidence challenges for some of those in the workplace wellbeing sector:
“It will look at how governments across Australia, employers, professional and community groups in healthcare, education, employment, social services, housing and justice can contribute to improving mental health for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.” (emphasis added)
The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg MP has written that
“the Commission should consider the role of mental health in supporting economic participation, enhancing productivity and economic growth.”
At the recent Scientific Meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM), Allison Milner stepped in for an ill Tony La Montagne and added value to his intended presentation on workplace mental health. This meeting is different from other conferences in one particular way, in relies on evidence and not marketing for its presentations. This difference made Milner’s presentation very powerful.
Milner set the scene with a broad picture of mental health:
“1 in 5 Australians have a mental illness, which equivalates to about 1.5 million. And over 3000 people lose their life to suicide every year, and the vast majority of these people being men. But suicide affects far more people than those people who attempt or sadly lose their life. It affects their work colleagues, it affects people in our community and it affects our family.”
Some organisations struggle to understand the prevention of harm. In September 2018 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released its “People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health“. The guide is intended to address
“…the whole lifecycle of employment, from recruitment, through keeping people well and managing a disability or ill health at work, to supporting people to return to work after a period of absence.” (page 3)
It includes the prevention of psychological harm but in words and phrases that are very unhelpful.