“This doesn’t apply to us, we don’t have anyone with a mental illness here!”

Sounds appalling doesn’t it ….

Mentally Well Workplaces” … but what does it really mean?

Surely all this wishy-washy attention on feeling good, being supported and emotional health isn’t something that sits well within the land of private training providers. Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) are far too busy with compliance, audits, training, completion rates and sourcing students to think about how mentally well their workplaces are.

In recent times the training industry has been shaken, RTO owners and their staff have really been put through the mill, many have fallen by the wayside.

This is exactly the reason why you should be paying attention to your own mental health and the mental health of your staff. 

Around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life, while one in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year.  It is highly likely that at least one worker in your workplace will, at some point in time, have a long or short-term mental illness.  Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.  While you don’t need to become an expert, however, understanding what mental illness is enables you to be more effective in handling issues that may arise.

Here’s an example for you to ponder:

“Chris has worked in the training industry for about 10 years, he worked his way up from a trainer to the position of training manager responsible for 12 staff members.  He described himself as “steady” and “driven”, he had aspirations for a successful future and was prepared to work hard.  Chris’s anxiety crept up on him over time, 6 months.  He recalls noticing that he would feel a bit nervous in the mornings when he woke and thought about the working day ahead, particularly around the time of his organisation was preparing for audit.  Chris had trouble sleeping and would wake in the early hours ruminating over absolutely everything.  He described on occasion feeling paralysed by fear at work, “my heart would pound, I’d feel hot and clammy and feel myself physically shake even though I knew there was no reason”.  He said, “I couldn’t make decisions, I felt irritable and would snap at staff members then feel really guilty”.  Every aspect of Chris’s work was affected, his boss took him to task on numerous occasions, noticing only that his work – rather than his mental health – was suffering.  After 6 long months of enduring these symptoms, along with a significant deterioration in his ability to sleep, Chris considered suicide.  He said, “I simply couldn’t take it anymore, I didn’t want to die but I couldn’t stand to live like that”.  Thankfully he sought the help of a professional and received the support and treatment he needed.

Knowledge is power.  How much do you know about the prevalence of mental illness, the signs and symptoms and how to help? Closing our eyes to this issue, denying it exists in our workplaces is not an option.  You owe it to yourselves and your staff. 

Tina Winchester

Practitioner & Head of Employee Assistance Program

Mental Health First Aid Instructor 
Career Development Centre