WITH up to 1 in 3 fly-in fly-out workers reportedly experiencing mental health difficulties  , suicide prevention organisation R U OK? is urging workmates to support one another before they hit rock bottom, as part of a new campaign.
Given that safety and risk aversion is at the heart of FIFO work practices, the campaign is a much-needed reminder that identifying emotional danger in the workplace isn’t as obvious as identifying physical danger.
With the number of Australians taking their own lives on the rise to almost eight deaths every day  , R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher urges employers and business leaders to do more to foster workplace cultures that encourage peer-to-peer conversations about wellbeing.
“Working away from family and friends inevitably takes a toll on people; especially if they’re dealing with issues at home. We need to remind workmates to watch out for the subtle changes that suggest someone isn’t coping so well.
“Sharing this campaign within your organisation – and championing it in a genuine, authentic way - is one strategy all team leaders can employ to foster positive talking behaviour between peers.”
The new campaign materials include a range of posters; videos; a step-by-step flow chart to have a conversation; and toolbox talking points for managers to share with their teams. The visual across the resources features three workers; two wearing high visibility clothing and one receding into darkness. The scenario serves as a prompt to genuinely ask after each other more often.
R U OK? Scientific Advisor and Lifeline Executive Director Alan Woodward said that research shows that men, in particular, need to be encouraged to speak up when they’re struggling:
“We know that people are more likely to turn to family, friends and workmates during times of stress, so it’s vital that workmates are empowered to have open and non-judgemental conversations,” Alan said. “It’s not about fixing someone’s problems – it’s about giving them the confidence and reassurance that they’re not alone. And – if necessary - being positive about the role of health experts in improving mental wellbeing.”
The FIFO campaign is supported by the global helicopter transportation services company, Bristow. Human Resources Manager of the Asia Pacific Region Keir Williams said the campaign is being launched at a critical time:
“While company executives are asking themselves what they can – and should – be doing to help support their employees through uncertain times, it’s also important that peers look out for one another,” Keir said. “FIFO workmates are best placed to understand the impact and challenges of working remotely for long periods, and therefore best placed to support each other through that.”
The resources can be downloaded from 29 July 2016
 The impact of FIFO work practices on mental health Final report , published by the Parliament of Western Australia, Perth 2015
 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2014 , published by ABS 2016
Nearly half of all Australians
will experience a mental health problem over the course of their lives, and 75% of these
will first appear before the age of 25. The long-term impacts of mental illness can be reduced if someone accesses help early, especially during adolescence. Yet, 70% of young people
who need help don’t get it.
It’s an issue close to Darryl Lapworth’s heart. Darryl is the general manager of employment labour hire specialists CTC in Rockhampton and organiser of Rockhampton’s 7 Rocky River Run.
“I had the privilege of talking to a local secondary student who shared that she had recently lost a close friend to suicide. What stayed with me from that conversation were her comments that she and her friends did not know where they could turn to for help, or who they could talk to,” he said.
Darryl believes we need to do more to provide solutions and guidance for young people, “not just those at risk but all young people,” he said.
“They need to know where to get appropriate help.”
“We wanted to do our bit to prevent youth suicide in Rockhampton and, after chatting with students from Rockhampton secondary schools, it became clear that a number of our local youth didn’t know how to respond when a peer shared that they were struggling,
“They also weren’t sure how to encourage them to access help,” he said.
“That’s the reason we selected R U OK? as a funding recipient in the hope that their resources would help young people in our local community navigate these conversations.”
Participants in the 7 Rocky River Run are encouraged to do the run (or walk) with their friends and community.
Darryl said that in tough times, he believes everyone needs the support of the friends, family and often the community.
“That’s why we wanted the 7 Rocky River Run to not simply be a race but an opportunity to bring people together. We wanted to remind Rocky that community spirit and connecting with others is so important,” he said.
Darryl’s hope? That the 2017 7 Rocky River Run has made a difference.
“When I heard the youth suicide rate in remote and rural Queensland I found it astonishing that this issue is not on the front page of newspapers, talk back radio and our television screens,
“We need to keep working as a community to address this issue and advocating for better local suicide prevention and mental health services. But right now we can make a difference to the people in our world, especially the young folks, by checking in with them regularly and asking, ‘are you ok?’”
Darryl hopes the 7 Rocky River Run’s support of R U OK? will encourage more people to do this throughout the year.
Need tips to help you ask? Visit the How to Ask page.
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following article could be potentially triggering. You can contact 1800 Respect for counselling, information and support 24/7: 1800 737 732
This article first appeared on www.brainstormproductions.edu.au
Loneliness is real and it affects people right across the country – in fact a 2016 Lifeline survey found 60% of Australians often feel lonely. While loneliness for some is related to physical distance from people they can relate to, for many it’s the fact that they’re surrounded by people but feel a lack of connection and social support. The good news is there are ways of keeping loneliness and social isolation at bay for ourselves and others in our community.
The power of conversation
Connecting with people we care about is a simple way to combat loneliness and the added bonus is, it’s good for our mental health. Strong and caring connections with friends and family also provide a vital safety net that helps us cope with life’s ups and downs. That’s why Brainstorm Productions is an official school partner with national suicide prevention charity R U OK?
Their message is simple – the acts of investing more time in the people around us and asking anyone doing it tough, “are you ok?” can make a big difference. It’s a message we’re never too young to learn.
Conversations can change lives and they need to happen every day of the year. That’s why R U OK? launched the One Million Challenge with the aim of inspiring a million conversations and connections. They’re doing this with the help of a quirky question mark character Quentin who’s travelling right across Australia in lead up to their national day of action, R U OK?Day (Thursday, 14 September 2017)
At every stop on his journey Quentin issues challenges to get people connecting and starting conversations with their loved ones - like get a cup of tea with a neighbour or send a card to your mum. Brainstorm Productions recently joined the challenge and helped Quentin reach even more Australians.
icare and R U OK? today launched a world-first study into psychological safety (1) in the workplace, which showed that frontline lower income-earning staff feel less safe and permitted to take risks at work than higher income-earning employees.
The Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey (2) canvassed 1,176 Australian employees and found that only 23 per cent of lower income-earning frontline employees felt their workplace was “psychologically safe” to take a risk, compared to 45 per cent of workers on significantly higher incomes.
A “psychologically safe” workplace is characterised by a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people feel comfortable being themselves to make mistakes or take risks in their work.
“This is the first time a country has ever measured psychological safety in the workplace,” said R U OK? board member and workplace mental wellness expert, Graeme Cowan.
“Google’s research of its own workforce revealed that psychological safety was the most important team norm for high-performing innovative workplaces – those norms are: Psychological safety; Dependability; Structure and clarity; Meaning and purpose; and Impact,” he said.
“While all five norms are important to team performance, psychological safety has been shown to be the most important attribute - if this attribute is strong, the other four norms are so much easier to achieve.
“If CEOs want their organisation to thrive in today’s digital economy, team psychological safety must be paramount, as well as striving for and monitoring of employee wellbeing,” Mr Cowan said.
icare CEO Vivek Bhatia said: “In a growing climate of uncertainty and increasing stress on workers, families and communities, mental health is one of the biggest societal challenges of the 21st century. One in five people in Australia will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime.
“Employee mental wellbeing must be at the top of every CEO’s agenda. Untreated mental illness costs Australian businesses $11 billion every year off their bottom line from absenteeism, lost productivity, stymied business growth and compensation claims,” he said.
“An investment in psychological wellness is an investment in now and the future.
“Employers should also recognise that this investment extends beyond their employees. We all bring our work home with us, including our state of mind.
“Mental wellbeing is not isolated to the individual – it has a flow-on effect to families, loved ones, and friends, who are at the heart of our social fabric.
“I urge all employers to ensure their people have a mentally safe environment to work in, one which respects differences, welcomes diversity and encourages employees to feel comfortable talking openly about how they’re doing,” Mr Bhatia said.
icare and R U OK? will also partner up to hold the Senior Leaders Workplace Mental Wellness Breakfast at the Westin in Sydney today with 200 CEOs and senior leaders from more than 80 organisations convening to understand and help define as a community “Why Mental Health Should be on Every CEOs’ Agenda”.
Organisations attending include: Ernst & Young, PwC Australia, Lendlease, CapGemini, CBA, Westpac, NAB, ING, AIA Insurance, EML, QBE, the Black Dog Institute, Virgin, Bayer, CoreLogic, Altius Group, BridgeClimb and the NSW Mental Health Commission.
The Australian Psychological Safety Survey is the result of a collaboration between R U OK? and Amy Edmondson, the pre-eminent global thought leader on psychological safety and Novartis Professor of Leadership & Management at the Harvard Business School. (2)
1 The concept of “psychological safety” originated from Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership & Management from Harvard Business School and is defined as a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.
2 Conducted by Colmar Brunton for R U OK?, the Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey was based on an independent online survey of 1,176 Australian full-time and part-time employees across all states and territories in March, 2017.
Media contact: Helen Han | 02. 8297 7570
Key Results of the Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey : Survey question:
“It is safe to take a risk at work”.
By Gender :
38 per cent of men strongly agreed or agreed that it was safe to take risks at work, which was significantly higher than the 29 per cent of women who strongly agreed or agreed.
By Income :
45 per cent of respondents on incomes of $156,000 or more a year strongly agreed or agreed, which was significantly higher than the other income groups. Those on less than $52,000 a year were significantly less likely to strongly agree or agree (23 per cent) on feeling comfortable taking risks.
By Employment status :
Employees working full-time or part-time were significantly more likely to strongly agree or agree (37 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively), compared to 25 per cent of part-time employees; taking risks.
“My work colleagues often reject others for being different”.
By age group:
Respondents aged 25-34 (Millennials) were significantly more likely to agree or strongly agree that their colleagues rejected others for being different (28 per cent), compared to between 7 per cent and 18 per cent for older groups);
Respondents aged 55-64 (Baby Boomers) were significantly more likely to disagree or strongly disagree that their work colleagues rejected differences (69 per cent), compared to an average of 58 per cent.
“It is difficult to ask my work colleagues for help”.
By age group:
Respondents aged 25-34 found it significantly more difficult to ask their work colleagues for help (24 per cent agree or strongly agree, compared to an average of 18 per cent).
Whereas respondents aged 55-64 found it significantly easier to ask for help (73 per cent disagree or strongly disagree, compared to an average of 62 per cent).
“If you make a mistake at work, it is often held against you”.
By age group:
Respondents aged 25-34 were the most concerned about mistakes being held against them (36 per cent strongly agree or agree), and respondents aged 45 and over were significantly less concerned (ranging between 12 per cent and 21 per cent agree or strongly agree.
"Working with my colleagues, my unique skills and talents are utilised".
Respondents on the lowest incomes (less than $52,000) were the least likely to strongly agree or agree with this statement (50 per cent), compared to between 64 per cent and 72 per cent for the other income groups.
Respondents with graduate degrees or higher were most likely to agree with this statement (68 per cent, compared to 59 per cent and 61 per cent for other groups).
27-year-old Khan Porter is a world-class athlete and one of Australia’s leading CrossFit champs, having competed three times at The CrossFit Games.
Known for kicking physical goals, Khan is putting his muscle behind a cause that’s close to his heart – suicide prevention. This weekend will see him compete in the highly competitive Reebok CrossFit Games 2017 Pacific Regional, wearing a bright yellow shirt in support of R U OK?
This won’t be the first time he’s spoken up about mental health and suicide prevention. In 2016, Khan posted a 25 second video of himself busting some serious moves to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies,’ in between his CrossFit lifts. The video went viral and Khan used the platform to start a conversation on how concepts of masculinity can stop men from seeking help when they need it most.
With the best of intentions we sometimes put our foot in it when it comes to supporting a mate or loved when who might be going through a tough time. Understanding depression and anxiety or any mental health issue can be bewildering for both the person unwell and their support network.
Sometimes we don’t always say the right thing to let the person know we are there for them. But words have power and thinking twice before offering advice, an opinion or a judgment to someone who is already feeling vulnerable, is key.
We’ve put together a few common scenarios people with depression/anxiety sometimes hear and offer an alternative response. These responses are more supportive and likely to encourage your loved one or friend to open up to you. Being able to open up without feeling judged, gives relief and establishes trust — and that’s the best gift you can give someone who’s struggling.
Here are some things you shouldn’t say to someone who has depression:
1. “I read that exercising every day is the best way to beat depression/anxiety, you should join the gym and start walking 5km a day. Endorphins, you need endorphins!”
While it’s true that exercising does help lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, some people, when they’re in a really low place, can barely cope with getting out of bed to shower. The gap between where they’re at to this new world of up and at ‘em, can seem impossible to reach.
Instead say: “I know when I have been feeling a bit off, getting out each morning for a walk really helped me get back to a better headspace. If you ever want a walking buddy or want to try Tai Chi or something like that, I would love to join you.”
2. “You have a great life, a great family, a beautiful home, what do you have to be depressed about?”
Depression/anxiety is not a choice and this is not a supportive comment, it will only alienate the person further. Your friend/loved one is probably very aware they have a “good life.” This comment will probably just shut down the possibility of them feeling comfortable opening up about their troubles with you.
Instead say: “I can see you’re doing it tough at the moment. Do you feel like opening up about what’s happening, I have time to talk? If not now, you can call me anytime, I’m always here for you, please know that.”
3. “You just need to get out of the house, you’re cooped up here on your own and that can’t be good for you, no wonder you’re depressed!”
People who are struggling with depression or anxiety just can’t leave the house, sometimes. Facing the world when they are at their worst is just not an option for them. It just isn’t.
Instead try: “If you feel like going for a walk, even just around the block, I would love that. Have a think about it. If not today, how about tomorrow? I really need to walk too, you’d actually be helping me get more active.”
4. “You need to snap out of this, it’s not fair on the rest of your family/friends, you’re being selfish.”
Red flag to a probably exhausted bull. This is not helpful, it can feel judgmental and alienating. This is not a choice, it’s something that feels completely out of their control. Guilt and shame compound their problem.
Instead try: “ Is there anything I can do to make this time a little easier for you? Can I drive you to see your doctor or phone and make an appointment for you? How can I best support you?
5. “I was depressed for a few days once, I get it, but I just made myself get over it. You should just try and be happy.”
Being out of sorts for a few days does not equate to depression and comparing your situation to someone else’s isn’t supportive.
Instead say: “I went through a few rough days myself a couple of years ago, but I managed to get myself back on track. I know this is probably different, but I’d be happy to share what got me through it, if you think it might help.”
6. “I’m throwing a dinner party to cheer you up, it’ll just be a few close friends and family.”
Eek! With the best of intentions, you have probably seen the wide-eyed look of horror on your friend’s face in response to that well-meaning offer. Depression and anxiety are no friend to socialising. Even if the guests are people they know well. The pressure to chat and appear happy when you’re not is exhausting .
Instead say: “I would love to have you around for lunch or a cuppa one day next week, just you and me, is that something you feel like you might be able to handle at the moment?”
7. “You’re depressed because you have nothing meaningful to do in your life. You need to socialise more or join a club, just get out and about more, you need to make an effort.”
While social connectedness and feeling a part of things is definitely key to a healthier lifestyle and a sense of well-being, not everyone with depression or anxiety is capable of taking such a big step. It can be scary enough for some people when they’re feeling great, but a terrifying prospect when that person is not at their best.
Instead try: “ I was thinking about joining, (e.g.) ‘Ladies who Luncheon,’ it looks like a lot of fun and it’s only once a fortnight. I’d feel a lot better if I had someone to go with, would you consider coming with me next week if you’re feeling up to it?”
8. “I’m trying to be supportive and I know you can’t help having depression/anxiety, but you’ve been taking medication for a while now, so how come it’s not working? How long before you’ll be better?”
How long is a piece of string? The odds are your friend or loved one has been wondering the same thing. Getting better or just managing a condition, even on medication, is different for everyone. There’s no quick fix and making the person feel like they’re not getting better fast enough, will possibly make them withdraw further.
Instead say: “Have you had a chat to your doctor lately about your progress, how are you feeling about it all? I’m happy to listen if you want to get anything off your chest. This must be very frustrating for you and sometimes a good vent helps. I’ll make us a cuppa.”
9. “This mood you’re in is a choice you know? You need to pull yourself up by the boot straps and get on with things. People depend on you, you know.”
Oh, thank you for being so frank, said no one ever. A comment like this will only further compound the isolation this person is already feeling. It will It certainly not open up any opportunity for meaningful connection or conversation, which could actually be the starting point to them getting help.
Try instead: “I really can’t relate to how you’re feeling, mate. I haven’t had depression so it’s hard for me to understand what you’re going through right now. I wish I could understand it a bit better, so if you want to talk to me about it, I’ll make us a cuppa and sit with you for a while.”
Need more tips to help you talk to someone you're worried about? Visit our How to Ask page.