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The stigma of being 'sick in the head'
Sick leave is simple when it is something physically visible. Broken a leg? No problem, stay at home until you can hobble back to work in a boot. Put your back out? Lie flat until that disc slips itself back in. But what about the unseen illnesses, the ones that are still shrouded in some secrecy and shame; mental illnesses. Regardless of our limited understanding of mental illness, the fact remains that in Australia suicide is the leading cause of death for people between 15 and 44, which is a shocking statistic. Mental illness is often a precursor to suicide.
R U OK?
September 8 is R U OK day in Australia. R U OK day began as one man’s passion to discover answers after his much loved father’s suicide. The premise is simple – take time out to ask, and really listen, to your friends and colleagues when you ask them if they are OK.
How can work help employees?
Having a mental illness such as depression is much more common than people think. Because of the stigma still unfortunately sometimes associated with such diseases people often don’t admit to having them. Some people think it can be seen as a sign of weakness. Encouraging your teams to talk to you if they have issues and reserving judgement is the most important thing. Be a better boss. Some workplaces such as Google even offer a doona day each year, where you don’t even have to give a reason, you just don’t have to come to work.
Managers – set up regular meetings with your team to discuss their wellbeing at work as well as their professional development. The two go hand in hand – a happy employee is a productive employee.
Peers – keep your eyes open for changes in mood within the team; there are plenty of things you can do to help a colleague out such as taking them for a coffee and a chat, or offering them help on projects.
How can you help yourself?
One in five Australians will experience mental health issues in their lifetime, which is an awful lot of us. What can you do to help yourself? Make sure you have a proper work/life balance, take breaks and listen to what your body needs. Spend time with friends and family, make sure you get enough sleep, and use relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation if they help you. If you need help, don’t be ashamed to ask. Above all, take time out to ask others R U OK? A conversation could change a life.