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.
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.
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?”
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:
The Australian Industry Group has released research into workplace mental health conducted by Griffith University. The AiGroup claims it is a
“… a landmark study into mental health initiatives taken in local workplaces”.
It is far from it. Workplace mental health will only become more important in 2020 with reports due from the Productivity Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission. Sadly the AiGroup report gives inadequate attention to the prevention of work-related psychological harm even though this has been identified by some Australian mental health experts as the most cost-effective and sustainable business strategy.
The most obvious problem with the report is with this statement: