Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

31 Oct 2019

Recently IPAA Victoria, in partnership with WorkSafe, held a one-day forum Managing Mental Health in the Workplace. Presented at WorkSafe’s Geelong headquarters, it sought to give regional public purpose sector professionals an opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, advocates, experts and academics engaged in this most critical of issues.

Hosted by Elaine Carbines, Chief Executive Officer of G21 and IPAA Victoria Board member, we heard from the Chief Executive of WorkSafe, Clare Amies; the Chief Executive Officer of TAC, Joe Calafiore; Jenny Whelan, the Director of Albert Park Kindergarten; Professor Tony LaMontagne, from the Centre for Population Health Research at Deakin University; and Jake Edwards, founder of Outside The Locker Room.

Speaking in conjunction, Clare Amies and Joe Calafiore examined workplace mental health from the dual perspectives of prevention and consequences. Clare focused on the importance of building a work culture that actively encourages reflection on mental health. However, this was framed within her salient point that all of us, irrespective of role or position, do not leave the challenges we face – whether mental, physical, familial or social – at the door, and that the workplace must seek to accommodate these if it wishes to maintain a healthy, engaged workforce.

Joe Calafiore began his presentation with the frank confession that, when asked several years ago by a TAC board member as to exactly what the organisation’s mental health blueprint was, he had to admit it didn’t have one – an admission that has since resulted in TAC developing a comprehensive plan for addressing employee mental health. Joe’s discussion of this process highlighted the absolute importance of publicly asking questions about mental health, and not resiling from taking action on it, however difficult it might initially appear.

Jenny Whelan eloquently recalled the challenges she and her colleagues faced in the aftermath of a workplace mental health crisis, emphasizing the necessity of organizational preparedness for such an eventuality, whilst acknowledging this will not mitigate the devastating emotional impact experienced throughout these events.

Internationally recognized expert Professor Tony LaMontagne spoke to his integrated approach to mental health, work that underpins the Whole of Victorian Government Mental Health and Wellbeing Charter. His articulation of the evidence behind it; the rationale for implementing and ways of doing so; and, most importantly, the benefits of doing so, thus providing a strong empirical foundation for the day’s discussion.

Jake Edwards concluded the day with a moving summation of his own mental health challenges, placing them in the context of his experiences as an AFL player. Critically, Jake addressed the intersection of Australian constructs of masculinity and mental health, highlighting the need for the former to evolve if the latter is to improve.

Ultimately, each of the day’s speakers cast new and critical light on managing mental health in the workplace, challenging the audience’s preconceptions and urging them to be in the vanguard of a positive, lasting response to it.

Elaine Carbines, Joe Calafiore, Clare Amies

Elaine Carbines, Joe Calafiore, Clare Amies