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Tracksafe: Why workplace conversations matter: Keeping each other on track

  • By Robyn Ward
  • 19 Apr, 2016

None of us are immune to life’s curveballs; even though we sometimes like to pretend we are.

Keeping each other on track
It’s why support from workmates is so invaluable when those feelings of invincibility slip (sometimes rapidly) away.

Annual Relief Station Officer Jamie Robertson knows first-hand the difference workmates can make when the chips are down.

“My daughter Chloe’s had a long battle with anxiety and depression. Obviously, that takes a toll on you emotionally as a parent. I’ve also recently been diagnosed with cancer for the second time, which isn’t the greatest thing. I try to always be a positive person in the workplace but things can get to you sometimes.”

Jamie’s colleagues have been a huge source of support and helped him remain upbeat and positive.

“I think most people on the railways are pretty compassionate to one another. Recently, I’ve received a lot of support at work. I’ve been fortunate that a lot of my colleagues have helped out where they can; especially making sure I can make all my doctors’ appointments. I’m very thankful for that.

“The support of our colleagues is so important because we spend a third of our day at work and can carry a lot around. Having a conversation with people you trust at work can help unburden the load. You’re not bottling in stuff that hurts. That’s why I think it’s very important to build a good working relationship and share some personal stuff.”

Jamie believes that showing genuine care and concern for your colleagues can help them open up when times are tough.

“When people ask how I’m going, I tend to go with the easy answer of ‘Yeah, everything’s ok’. But when I can see someone’s genuinely concerned I’m more comfortable opening up to them.

“My workmate John’s the type of person who shows that genuine concern. One conversation with him really stands out. I remember he started with ‘How are you going?’ and he asked a few questions about Chloe. I said, ‘Everything’s ok. She’s still here, so I’ve got something to be positive about’ and so forth. He went ‘No, no. How are you doing?’ Rather than just investigating what was going on with Chloe he said ‘It’s obvious you care for your daughter, but it must be tough for you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been a bit down recently’ and we had a chat about that.”

When someone is going through a tough time, Jamie says it can help to link up with a person or service that can provide some extra support. He was grateful John made the effort to connect him with the Employee Assistance Program. He says talking to the EAP helped him process what he was going through.

“When he heard I was feeling a bit down, John encouraged me to get a bit of extra support. He made it such a simple thing to do by going ‘It can help to speak to someone, so I’ve actually arranged for you to do that’. That’s when he put me in touch with the EAP. The EAP is totally independent. They’re not metro employees, so you can feel completely comfortable chatting to them. I had a chat with them, which helped. That wouldn’t have happened if John hadn’t shown that initiative.”

Jamie’s got some advice for anyone who wants to start a conversation with a workmate they’re worried about:

“Sometimes the first answer we give is the one we think other people want to hear; that everyone’s ok and everything’s well. When people recognise things are ‘off’ they need to investigate a bit further, so you open up a bit more. They need to delve a bit deeper, just like John did. Don’t be afraid to do that.”

Do you work in the Rail industry? Get involved in Rail R U OK?Day (Thursday 21 April 2016) - a campaign we've developed with Tracksafe. Find out how here:

Are you worried about a colleague? Find out how to start the conversation on the How to Ask page.


By hello 11 Jul, 2017
This article was written by Jack Ward, a 14-year-old journalist from Ararat in Victoria who believes in the power of conversation. You can read more of Jack's stories, articles and opinion pieces at
By hello 29 Jun, 2017

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.  


By hello 27 Jun, 2017

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

By hello 20 Jun, 2017
This article was written by 

Jemma Mrdak who is a successful blogger at 'A Stylish Moment' by night and a social media management guru by day.

By hello 14 Jun, 2017
This article was written by Josh Quarmby the founder of Blokepedia, which he started to encourage men to share their stories. This article first appeared on
By hello 12 Jun, 2017

This article first appeared on

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.

By hello 29 May, 2017

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". 

By Income: 

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. 

By Education: 

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). 

By hello 26 May, 2017
Next Tuesday 30 May, senior business leaders will be speaking on the importance of mental health, wellbeing and resilience in the workplace at the icare NSW and R U OK? Senior Leader's Breakfast. The event is SOLD OUT but you can still get involved through the Facebook live stream at /icarensw from 7.30am. We've got a teaser of what will be discussed below:
By hello 25 May, 2017

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.

By hello 19 May, 2017

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.

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