Australian suicide prevention group beyondblue will provide male-dominated workplaces with free or heavily-subsidized training sessions to improve the mental health of workers across Australia, help reduce male suicide rates and increase businesses’ understanding of the importance of having a mentally healthy workplace.

Small to medium enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, unions and businesses in construction, mining, manufacturing and transport are eligible for free or heavily-subsidized workshops.

According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, 76% of deaths by suicide were men and of these, 56% were men of working age, making the workplace an important setting for early intervention and support. Untreated depression is a major risk factor for suicide and research shows that men are less likely than women to take action to seek support if they have a mental health problem.

beyondblue’s CEO Kate Carnell says depression, anxiety and other mental health problems have a huge impact on productivity in the workplace. “It is estimated that depression alone causes 6 million lost working days and 12 million days of reduced productivity each year and also costs Australian businesses $12 billion annually in lost productivity and staff turnover. Having a mentally healthy workplace boosts productivity because staff take fewer sick days, are more engaged and stay in their jobs longer.

“Male-dominated businesses can take advantage of beyondblue’s subsidized National Workplace Program (NWP) sessions to put in place policies that promote good mental health in the workplace and support employees with mental health problems in the same way those with physical health problems are supported. We can help employers and employees recognize the early signs of anxiety and depression in their work colleagues, take action to assist them to get the treatment they need and reduce discriminatory attitudes.”

The beyondblue NWP training sessions deliver a range of strategies to help establish mentally healthy workplaces, help employers and employees recognize the signs of mental health difficulties in their colleagues and to take appropriate action to support them. Since 2004, more than 81,000 people have completed 3050 NWP sessions at 1050 workplaces across Australia with 98% of participants saying they would recommend the program to others.

“These workshops will also build managers’ skills and confidence to approach a colleague to have a conversation. We’re not expecting people to diagnose their colleagues, but to understand that depression and anxiety could be the drivers of certain behaviours,” Kate Carnell says.

The NWP workshops for male-dominated workplaces and industries are being funded by the Department of Health and Ageing’s Taking Action to Tackle Suicide strategy, as part of a national strategy to reduce the high rate of male suicides. There are five different workshops for people in different roles and at different organizational levels. The briefings for senior executives incorporate a business case for tackling the most common mental health problems in the workplace and leadership strategies to address them. The sessions range between one and four hours, and are conducted by a NWP facilitator in the workplace or at a location of choice, so there is minimal disruption.

Kate Carnell says mentally healthy workplaces can not only play an important role in helping people recover from mental illness but can also benefit people’s families and the broader community. “By creating mentally healthy workplaces across the country and educating people so stigma and discrimination are reduced, we hope to give everyone with mental health problems a fair go.”

All sessions must be delivered by June 30, 2014 and any interested organization should contact beyondblue NWP licensee Davidson Trahaire Corpsych on 1300 134 644 or [email protected] or visit www.beyondblue.org.au/nwp.

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