Today is R U OK day, a day for checking on those around you and starting conversations with the simple question ‘Are you ok?’

So, let me ask you, are you ok? Let me follow that up with, are your staff ok? Have you checked in with them recently? In these challenging times it’s never been more important to look after your mental health and that of your team, but where do you start?

It could start with ‘Are you ok?’, a simple question that starts a conversation.

Before you ask that question though, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. according to mental health educator and Chamber Director, Bianca Welsh, if you as a business leader are concerned about the mental health of a staff member, here are the first steps you should take:

• Ask yourself, am I mentally well enough to have this conversation? As you never know what you may be confronted with, could it be a trigger for your own mental health?
• This should be followed by the question; am I the right person to be having the conversation? Is this better filtered through someone that they have a better connection with or trusts more?
If you feel confident that you are mentally well enough to have this conversation and are the right person:
• Make sure you’re in a place where both you and your staff member will feel comfortable.
• Ask the question in your own, casual way e.g. How are you travelling? Bianca suggests starting with; “I’m concerned about you, and I wanted to have a chat to see if you’re okay. I’m a little bit uncomfortable and I don’t want to cross a line, but I just want to start a conversation with you. I’ve observed X, Y, Z. I’m concerned about X, Y, Z in your behaviour.”
• Always come from a place of genuine care and empathy, putting aside any judgmental thoughts.
• Temporarily remove your employer hat. Yes, you are their employer, you have a business to run, and they have a job to do, but if you come from a place where you want that person to get better, you can’t go wrong.
• Be prepared should the conversation not go as planned or for what you may be confronted with. You might refer them to their GP, your businesses’ Employee Assistance Practitioner, or another support service such as Tasmanian Lifeline, HeadSpace, Head to Health, Anglicare, Enterprising Aardvark, or The Men’s Table (to name a few). If you’re not sure, it’s ok to admit to them that “I’m not sure where to start, but let’s do this together, I’m here to help you.”
With worker’s compensation claims for mental health-related conditions increasing, it’s important we monitor the mental health of our employees. Here are a few additional ideas for you and your business:
• Have you considered undertaking and/or having one of your staff undertake a Mental Health First Aid Course? Please see the next newsletter article for more details on an upcoming course.
• RU OK? has developed a number of resources for workplaces. You can register to become an RU OK? Workplace Champion (free of charge) and gain access to their suite of resources.
• October is WorkSafe Tasmania Month. The theme for 2022 is Safe Bodies, Safe Minds and Worksafe Tasmania are running a number of events, some focussed on mental health in the workplace.
• Have you considered an Employee Assistance Provider for your workplace?
Let’s all keep an eye on each other, ask the question, start the conversation and make sure WE R OK.

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