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Working well in…The Community Sector -organisations supporting employee mental health

By Tasha Broomhall

An employer’s basic legal responsibility is to not discriminate against an employee because of mental illness and to provide reasonable workplace adjustments to support employees with mental illness. However, many managers and supervisors do not know what this actually translates to in terms of behaviour, actions and supports. There is little balance in typical responses with some employers providing so much flexibility and support to employees with mental health issues that it negatively impacts on the organisation. For example, other employees may have to carry too onerous a workload, or adjustments to working hours may have a negative impact on operational needs, and so on. And yet other organisations are so inflexible that they won’t even make small adjustments, such as allowing an employee to work flexible hours to attend medical appointments. 

We interview three organisations with very different operational needs and looked at the ways they are trying to strike this important balance in responding to the mental health and wellbeing with their staff.  Todays article looks at mental health in the health insurance industry.

The Emmanuel Centre in North Perth is a self-help centre for people with disability. Emmanuel is often described as the place to contact if you have tried everywhere else. The centre is currently home to a number of organisations and initiatives, working together to make life easier for people with disability. The Centre has undertaken a number of initiatives over many years, focussing on the mental health needs of their service recipients, volunteers, staff and members of the wider Catholic Church community.

TB: Why is mental health a priority area for your organisation?

Mental health is an issue that touches everyone’s life, directly or indirectly. At Emmanuel Centre we daily encounter mental health issues. The impact of mental health issues is so strong that unless it is dealt with as a priority we will find that our work and our persons are diminished.

TB: What are the various initiatives you use in your organisation to support mental health?

We come from a model of self-help so that we encourage people to do for themselves or learn to do for themselves rather than be provided with everything. We provide accommodation and work experiences as well as individualised programs as needed.

We sponsor Mental Health First Aid courses for people in the Archdiocese.

Currently we have about 70 people trained in Mental Health First Aid working in various parishes. We found the Mental Health First Aid course beneficial for those doing the courses as well as people we meet in our ministry. The Catholic Mental health Network meets every two months for ongoing Professional Development and sharing of ideas and outreach.

Tasha Broomhall has proven to be an excellent presenter for many reasons not least of which is that she is passionate about Mental Health First Aid, has personal experience and is very knowledgeable as well as having a sense of humour. No questioner is ever “put-down”. Everyone is deeply respected and we are honoured to have her working with us. The Mental Health First Aid has been really helpful. People who have done the course through Emmanuel Centre join a Catholic Mental Health Network and follow-up with meetings to talk about experiences and to get further skill training.

TB: What are your plans for moving forward?

Throughout the year we sponsor mental health initiatives like workshops, retreats, days of reflection and just time to be together. We hope to use the services of Blooming Minds this year by offering four workshops on “Coping with Change” in four key parishes in the Archdiocese.

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