Monthly Archives: July 2016

Pillar-4-Total-Integration

Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 4th Pillar

What do mentally wealthy organisations differently to others? Good question, right?

What Mentally wealthy organisations do is they see resilience and wellbeing as an integral part of their culture, in the extraordinary cases – it IS their culture. It’s not just an add on.

Think back to your time in organisations over the past maybe 10 to 20 years or so.  How many ‘strategic initiatives’ can you recall?  I can think of a stack of them: Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Employee Onboarding, Activity Based Costing, Management by Objectives, Triple Bottom Line Accounting…  And quite a few more.  How many of these really stuck and became part of the fabric of the organisation?  How many are you actively practicing today?

Probably not many, right?

And this is the problem with bolt on initiatives.  The Board or the leadership team will get hold of an idea from somewhere and decide it will be the next silver bullet that’s going to give them a strategic advantage over competitors and transform the industry landscape.  Project teams are established, consultants are hired, strategic plans are announced, budgets are approved and work begins.  But before long the project team encounters the headwinds of organisational inertia.  When push comes to shove, for example when a leader’s bonus rides on hitting a sales target, they will prioritise business as usual over supporting the project team.  With bolt on initiatives, what looks like commitment is actually in-principle support, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of ‘the important stuff’.


Read the other Pillars of Mentally Healthy Workplace….


There is a ROI of 2.3 on average direct correlation between the mental health of your employees and your organisation’s financial performance.  It is no-brainer.  Therefore it is too important to chance employee mental health to the success of your ‘Wellness Program’ or ‘RUOK Awareness Day’.  Mental health built into everything you do cannot be an add-on to what you do. It needs to be in built into everything you do. It needs to be part of the how you think or how you talk in your organization. It needs to permeate your policies. It needs to permeate how you move the organization.

You can cut logs and carry them to the nearest town and then put them on a truck. Or, you can chug the logs onto the river and let the flow take it to the nearest town. Which one is easier? Don’t make your employee mental health initiative a bolt on that you have to expend additional energy to execute.  Make it flow by incorporating it into the way your leaders lead.

It can’t be like, “Oh, did we talk about mental health this quarter? We need to put something in the Board report.” No, it happens as a matter of course.  It’s what we do. It’s not a bolt-on, it’s totally integrated.

That’s it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Pillar.

Talk soon and have a mentally healthy day.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Peter-with-Lucas

A dummy in each hand and one in the mouth – values and the smart manager

Pedro Diaz with Lucas DiazToday I’m going to write a different type of blog. Stay with me. I had to share. This morning as I reached into my pocket I felt a weird, clunky thing. I didn’t know what it was but then it hit me, a dummy! My son’s dummy (“pacifier” for our international audience) How cute. It put a smile in my heart. I remembered that my son, Lucas, who is just a little over 2 years old, this morning had lots of dummies. Three to be precise. He had a dummy in each hand and one in his mouth. This morning he had to have all the dummies he could find. I found it interesting because he wasn’t distressed. So, I asked myself, why? and it dawned on me, ‘he just feels good with them’. He feels safe. But not just any kind of safe. These dummies make him feel safe emotionally. So much so that now, he treasures these dummies.He obviously doesn’t need that many dummies but he  appreciates them for what he feels they give him. Safety, peace, balance. Now, obviously the dummies don’t give him these feelings, he creates them out of association. And as a result, he also now feels grateful for the dummies. Lucas VALUES his dummies because, unknowingly, he values how they make him feel.


You can read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….


Now I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of dummies for babies and children – this isn’t a parenting blog. But it made me think – what about us? Grown ups? Are we any different? Or similar? When most people think of work, their job, how do they feel? Most don’t look forward to going to work. Many even get anxious about going to work, like I did for many years. Why? If we let little people’s experience teach us, it’s because we have not linked the fulfillment of our values with what we do. We don’t think they are linked.

The smart manager will pay attention now. When people feel their values are being met in what they do, they become passionate. They are at peace with themselves. Happy. In short, it’s good for their mental health. Makes sense, right? So why isn’t this happening everywhere? Why aren’t managers helping people link their values to what they do? This is going to make them mentally healthy and more valuable employees, right?

The problem is, most managers don’t know this, and if they do, they don’t know where to start. The values conversation has been relegated to something the company does every couple of years that doesn’t mean much to anyone else but the leadership team. And it’s only a conversation about the company values, not the individual employee’s personal values. That’s what we need to change. We need to make values relevant to all our employees. We need to help them see how the values of the company relate to their individual values. We need to meaningfully engage them in the process of clarifying their own values, the values of the team and the values of the company. And then, the effective leader, will speak of them often. Regularly. Because these values have become your ‘why we do things the way we do around here’.

That makes for good mental health.

By the way, Lucas held onto the dummies until we arrived to childcare. And when we arrive he knows they go in his bag, where he can get them anytime he wants. But he’s usually having too much fun to think about them through the day. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had as much fun at our workplaces as kids do at daycare?

PS if you want help to start a mentally healthy values conversation in your workplace, give me a call and I’ll get my team onto it.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Bullying in the workplace

Beware Declaring War on Bullying

Bullying in the workplaceA common mistake people make, especially at work, is to assume that it’s ‘others’ who are being a bully. And that bullying is an abuse of power by some other people more powerful than I. But this is self deceit. Many bullies don’t realise they are being a bully. It’s like having snot in the middle of your face, you are usually the last person to find out, right?

The same with acting like a bully. Ask yourself, ‘can I think of times when I’ve acted like a bully?’ before you answer rashly, think about this ‘do you like to be right?’ if you are not right, does it upset you? do you like rules? (but only your rules!)’ then it’s quite probable that, at times, you may have acted as a bully to others, even if you didn’t mean to.

Or think about it this way, have you ever taken it out on someone else? and you knew it wasn’t their fault but you had a go at them anyway? and what’s more, did you secretly enjoy it? (even if later you felt guilty about it) I think most of us have. By the way most people do. It’s not that we are bad people, it’s that we all have the potential to try to force our thoughts, actions and will onto someone else. It’s usually a response to our own fears and uncertainties.


Read more on workplace bullying….


One of the common scenarios we see in workplaces goes like this – someone doesn’t agree with a colleagues’ idea, opinion, or direction. For some reason, they feel it’s personal. They feel hurt, upset, disappointed, or frustrated. Now they start to see their colleague differently. As a evil, bad, some kind of bitch or bastard. A villain. And it’s ok to stop perpetrators, right? Don’t we have a moral obligation to stop them? …and the reasons for judging, labelling and attacking keep coming.

By the way, this is completely normal and to be expected when you have a group of people coming together to work on something. But if the person is not aware of what is going on, it may not be too long before they start to feel they are being bullied or victimised. And in response, they launch an all out attack on the colleague. Does this sound at all familiar? Now who is doing the bullying in this scenario? The wise person will catch themselves in this.

We need to be careful before we react, to make sure that we ourselves have not become a bully in response. This means a certain level of self awareness and self honesty is required. Rather than declare war on bullying, check to make sure you are responding with compassion, kindness, understanding and assertion, not aggression.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Better-worse

Is Mental Health Really Getting Worse or Are We Just Talking About it More?

Better-worseThis is a question which frequently comes up in our training courses. And our answer to this is “a bit of column A, and a bit of Column B”.

Across the ages, people have always experienced mental health issues. Whether it was overwhelming anxiety, depression, or even ‘psychotic’ episodes, which in past times would more likely have been explained in a spiritual reference as either connection to the gods, or possession. But it’s always been there.

In more recent times (but really only in the last 100-200 years, mind you), we have started to medicalise mental health issues, measure and examine them. If you look at it on the surface, it is true, that we do indeed see increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with mental health issues. But the key there is in the ‘diagnosis’.

You see, it may be that with increasing awareness about mental or emotional distress, more and more people are going to seek help, and receiving a diagnosis. But we also need to consider that if we look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (with at least 56% of the panel members receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies) the number of mental health issues you can be diagnosed with has grown over the years. There are now hundreds of diagnoses you can get (we don’t recommend it).


Read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….


Also the criteria for diagnosis of a mental health problem has been lowered over the years, to the point where many psychiatrists are actually speaking out against the current version of the DSM, particularly in the areas of grief and autism spectrum disorders, amongst others. When the latest version was put together many psychiatrists withdrew their participation and there were petitions against various aspects of it signed by hundreds of psychiatrists and mental health professionals. And yet it remains generally accepted as the “measurement” of mental health issues.

Add to that the fact that with increasing awareness and decreasing stigma around mental health issues, more people are reaching out to get help, and it would be reasonable to conclude that the actual numbers of people suffering are not actually on the increase, that it is purely the result of our diagnostic standards, and increasing awareness.

But, it gets more complicated than that. There are things in our current, modern lives, which we believe are also impacting on people’s general wellbeing. Just some of those include the increasing pace of change, increasing demands on us in terms of workloads, increasing opportunities to compare ourselves to others negatively (through globalization of media, social media, etc), increased use of medications (see our blog “3 little known things that are making people’s mental health worse”), new ways of viewing life which diminish personal responsibility, a culture of expectations, instant gratification, and entitlement, and the list goes on.

So, with all this in mind, how do we navigate the complex world of mental health? Well the first step is education – getting some good insight into these issues is an essential first step.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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3-little-known-things

3 little known things that are making people’s mental health worse

3 little known thingsThe mental health in the workplace is in crisis. Yet most people, even clinicians, don’t understand the depth of the problem. Here, we briefly reveal some problems in current approaches.

1. Overreliance on Medications to Treat Anxiety and Depression

Few people have problems acknowledging that, as a society, we are over medicated. Yet, most of us expect to walk out of the doctor’s office with at least one prescription. When it comes to mental health, that’s not a good idea. The evidence shows so called anti anxiety medications and anti depressants do not have better results than placebos for mild to moderate anxiety and depression and just slightly better than placebos for severe depression. We do know, however, that all these medications can have serious side effects, not just on physical health, but on mental health too. There’s increasing evidence that antipsychiatric medications can cause the very same pathology they were meant to treat. In fact for some medications, suicidal thoughts is listed as a side effect. Go figure!


Read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….


2. Poor Explanations for Mental Health Problems

It’s usually agreed upon that how well you define a problem is key to resolving a problem. In the same vein, how we explain mental health problems determines what we’ll use as treatment. Hence, a bad explanation of why I have mental health problem results in bad, or inappropriate treatment. With a move to pathologising mental health problems across the world, we are reducing the importance, as societies, of other better or equally effective treatments; many without side effects.

3. Bad Science

There are some theories floating in the mental health space that are being accepted as factual. These theories have not been validated and should not be used as fact to treat mental health problems. For example, the theory that mental health problems stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. Most people believe that this is fact, because it has been presented that way. But in fact, it’s just one of the theories out there. When someone says they have been feeling anxious or down, there is no way to test whether they have a chemical imbalance in the brain. And even if we could, and we did find a chemical imbalance, we couldn’t know if it caused the emotions, or if it was an effect of the emotions. Its not as simple as is being presented.

In mental health, it pays to get a second opinion.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Top-3-Tips-for-HR-Managers

Top 3 Tips for HR Managers

Recently, I was asked by a National HR Director for three tips she could give to a meeting of HR Leaders. She only had one hour. Here are my top three tips (mind you, these are the ones that come to the top of my mind straight away but by no means the only ones! Any surprises?

The top three tips I would give are:

1. Don’t be in a hurry to send people home

– often, when someone has expressed some problems with mental health, managers panic and their first response is to send someone home. In fact, that is not necessarily the best thing for the person’s well being nor for the business. If the person goes home, they can start ruminating about challenges at work, feeling like a failure for not being able to perform at the level they want to, and returning to work becomes harder and harder.

Top-3-Tips-for-HR-Managers

Statistically, once a person has been absent due to stress of mental ill-health for more than 3 days, the likelihood of them returning to work is very slim. We know staying at work is better for their mental health. And for the business, when someone has gone home, others have to pick up the extra work, leading to more pressure on those team members, and resentment towards the absent person (or their manager). It’s much better if you can work with the person to negotiate a way they can stay at work – perhaps some reasonable adjustments are needed for a certain period of time. But in order to navigate these conversations, managers have to have good skills and a solid understanding of the complexities of mental health issues.

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2. Play nice and be kind

– given the research shows that between 20-30% of people will experience a mental health issue each year, it is not anything to be frowned upon, or which should be a surprise for managers. It doesn’t discriminate according to your job position either. It just as likely could be a supervisor, a senior manager, or the CEO who is going through something challenging like this. So when we are responding to mental health in the workplace, we need to consider how we would like to be treated if it was us? The relationship that the staff member has with their direct supervisor is the most critical indicator of how a mental health problem will impact the workplace. Whether it is a small matter that gets dealt with early, or whether it unravels and becomes a psychological injury claim. Managers need to watch their own frustration with people experiencing mental ill-health, in order to manage it in the best way possible. This takes a high degree of resilience and emotional intelligence.

3. Have higher expectations of people with mental health problems

– returning again to the statistics of 20-30% or people, that means that up to a third of your workforce may be experiencing mental health problems in any one year. Mental health problems may impact on their work, but for many people work becomes a safe haven, where they can feel productive and contribute. Just having a mental health problem does not necessarily mean the person has lost any intelligence, skills or capability. However they may need some extra support. At the WMHI our position is that we need to support employees to meet the expected level of performance, rather than lower the expectations. This is another conversation that managers need to be able to have skilfully.

That is what I’d like to communicate to your managers too. If this sounds right to you, I’d be happy to have a chat with you about these concepts if you think it would be useful.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Addressing-Stigma

How can I address stigma in the workplace about mental health?

Addressing StigmaAccording to the studies, 9 out of 10 people experience some kind of discrimination in relation to mental health, and one in 10 employees have resigned as a result of feeling unsupported with a mental health condition.

Many people think that the key to addressing stigma about mental health is to run some awareness campaigns – put on a morning tea, maybe put some posters up, get people talking about mental health. And to a degree, that’s right. It is a good idea to raise awareness about mental health, start to make it OK to have a conversation about it.

BUT, in our experience training hundreds of organisations around Australia, those workplaces where stigma exists need a lot more than just some ‘awareness’ activities.


Read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….


In these environments, if awareness activities are run without a proper educational program to support it, or a longer term action plan in place, they can often be ridiculed, resulting in the completely opposite effect than what was intended in the first place! The well meaning HR Manager has put a lot of effort into this activity, but it doesn’t have the desired effect long term.

And then there’s the education itself. Training needs to be more than just providing information about mental health, it needs to be designed and delivered in such a way that it actually shifts attitudes. It must touch the individual people in the room, as human beings not just as their job title. It has to move them to build empathy for their colleagues, and help them to face their fears in talking about mental health.

After all, the majority of people who are stigmatising or making jokes about people with mental health issues, do so because they are uncomfortable with the topic themselves. Maybe they have had their own experiences themselves, or been through something with a friend or family member. Whatever the case is, the person stigmatizing is usually not a bad person, they wouldn’t mean to hurt someone else, they’re just struggling with how to respond emotionally. And when you have someone who is socially influential who is in that space, its not long before other colleagues follow suit and before you know it the workplace environment is one where people do not feel safe to reach out for help. And when that happens, people bottle it up, don’t get help, and often there can be very dire, sometimes fatal consequences.

We’ve been to workplaces like this where it is only after someone has taken their life that colleagues respond with ‘I never saw it coming’.

And this is just one of the reasons why we strongly encourage workplaces who have this problem to make sure they couple their ‘awareness campaign’ with some solid, transformational education, over a period of time. You are looking to change culture after all, and that takes a series of consistent actions over time.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Not-at-the-top-of-our-priority-list

Not At the Top of Our Priority List

Not at the top of our priority listThe client sounded worried on the phone. We’d just been getting to know each other for the past few weeks; discussing the very real, and worrying, mental health needs of their staff, and today’s call was about setting up some dates for training. To my surprise, my new friend and colleague, had come come back with an unexpected answer: “At this time, it’s not at the top of our priority list”. I was dumbfounded. A little like a rabbit in the headlights. What did that mean? That the mental health of their people was not a priority? I knew that not to be true. These are caring and compassionate people interested in the wellbeing of their staff and their families. My conversations with them over the past few weeks had left no doubt in my mind. But why were we now having this particular ‘not-at-the-top-of-our-priority-list’ conversation?

Thank god, ‘not-priority’ conversations are not daily occurrences. But, I have found that, unfortunately, they do happen often enough. It does bring up some questions for me – what is at the top of the priority list for businesses? and is that what should be there for them to get better outcomes? and, more importantly, SHOULD a robust mental health initiative be a part of it?


Read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….


We’re not going to get easy answers to any of those questions, but I can follow a thought trail to shed some light on the matter.

1) follow the results – whatever is on their priority list is what’s giving them the results they are getting now. From our conversations, we know the mental health of their people is suffering, not a good result in my books!;

2) since they are not getting the results they want in that area, that means that those priorities need some readjustment. But only IF they want better results in the area of mental health.

3) Which brings up the next question: do they really want better mental health for their teams? well, what would that require? it would require commitment, time and resources. And here’s where the problem starts to unravel, in business, as everywhere else, these three are precious and limited commodities. Which translates into the need to do an analysis of our business aims, values and options to get us there. Which brings us to point

4) Is the mental health of our teams going to get us closer to our business aims? how? By the way, these are highly valid questions. If the mental health of our teams has no correlation whatsoever to the business aims of the organisation then we should not use our precious time and resources on this, period. So what does the research say?

As a fellow business leader and manager, I also have to look at the business case. I need, want, to make sure something is not just an expense and it’s going to bring some hard, tangible benefits to our business. It’s my responsibility. I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t. So, what’s the Business Case?

Download the Silent Expectations report to get the facts.

For now, stay well and keep mentally healthy.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Taking-Care-of-Bottom-Line

Taking care of the bottom line through good mental health

Bottom lineI was reading an article from the UK about a lady who had a mental health crisis working in the retail industry, with a strict employer who constantly demanded their minimum wage employees push clients to spend thousands of pounds in one transaction. She talks about the high turnover rates among the 100 plus employees, and the impact the working environment had on her mental health.

And it got me thinking – how many employers are there out there who spend such a huge portion of their time, effort and resources focussing on creating sales, to generate higher and higher income, while at the same time they completely forget that the ways in which they treat their staff can end up costing them much, much more. Turnover is just one aspect of this – the cost of recruitment, and time spent hiring and training up a new employee. But then if it’s not a good working environment, it won’t be long before they are spending on more sick leave and having to replace that employee too. Not to mention the costs involved if someone actually puts in a stress claim! That can be a huge drain on the business.


Read more on workplace mental health….


And it’s not necessarily that managers or businesses are bad or evil. They are people too. And they are likely doing their best to keep everything running, to keep people in jobs. There is a lot of stress involved there too, and sometimes, in cases like this it can filter down to the frontline staff. Before you know it it’s a downward spiral.

BUT!!! it can so easily be reversed by:

1. Training managers in how to better support people within the workplace.

2. Making sure the managers have the support of the executive team – that they are committed to addressing mental health and wellbeing

3. Communicating the plan clearly to all staff, and following through.

Not only will this directly help the bottom line in terms of generating more income – the evidence is very clear that with a healthy and happy workforce, productivity, customer service, and all the other good stuff increases dramatically. But it will also have a huge impact in terms of the money saved in all those places where it is just being drained at the moment.

And besides the financial incentive, what about the fact that the people working in the business are real people too, with thoughts and feelings? Work is such a huge part of our lives, why not make it a pleasurable place to be, rather than one staff dread coming to each day. Now of course it doesn’t mean that you’ll stop all mental health problems – people are still people, and they still have personal lives too, but when someone does have something difficult happening in their personal life, the approach of the manager at work can make all the difference as to whether they spiral downwards and end up needing time off or whether work can become a haven for the person. This makes all the difference not just for the person, but for the business too.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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When-is-the-right-time

When is the right time to talk about suicide?

When is the right timeIt’s a beautiful morning. Its cold outside but the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a café across from the water starting my work day. And it hits me, today 8 people in Australia will take their own life. 8 people will feel so desperate, so alone, so hopeless, they will take drastic action to end their life deliberately.

I don’t mean to startle you. In fact, we had this conversation in our team just yesterday. You see, we’re developing our online suicide prevention course, and the question was, how do we help people to see how important, how urgent this is, without scaring people? How do we help people to look at something that so often we as a society don’t want to look at or think about? How do we make it OK to talk about suicide, to learn about suicide?

I think the time for downplaying it has ended. In Australia we now have a situation where more people die each day from suicide than through road accidents. Let that sink in. More people deliberately take their own life, than by accident on the road. And 6 of those will be men. What is going on for men? Well there are many and complex issues, which I won’t go into right now, that’s for another article.


Read more on workplace wellbeing….


You know we’ve seen increasing rates of suicide over the last few years, despite the growing focus on mental health issues. How can that be? Well, there are a number of factors, but one thing I think is important to  realise is that much of the focus has been on ‘awareness campaigns’. Now that is a good start, and in many cases, where there is a big taboo that is the best place to start – just to get people talking about mental health is an improvement. But if we really want to make a difference it can’t end there. People need real skills, they need to know what to watch for in their colleagues and friends, and they need to know what to do, how to respond.

If we are looking to make a difference in the lives of Australians (and we are), workplaces are a great place to start, as we spend so much of our lives at work, hours at a time, day after day with the same people by our side.

But here I have a frustration too. My frustration is that so many workplaces mean to equip their staff  in this area. They want to give them those skills, they want to make a difference to their staff. But with all the competing priorities and demands, mental health training often gets left for later. But I come back to my initial statement. Today 8 people will take their life, tomorrow another 8 people, and the day after that, and the day after that. Every day that we put off mental health training til ‘the next quarter’, or ‘after the restructure’, or ‘when Bob gets back from leave’, is another day that we are at risk of losing a valued colleague, a good friend. Simply because someone didn’t have the training, didn’t notice the warning signs, or didn’t know what to do.

And I get it, I’ve been in senior management positions for a while now. There are competing demands. It’s the reality of business. But if you knew that someone in your team was going to attempt to take their life, would that suddenly make it more urgent? It is unfortunate that so many groups we train, have decided to implement some mental health education AFTER there has been a crisis like this. It’s sad. I just wish they would do it earlier. Do it now. It’s not unusual to have 80% of the room know someone who has taken their life. And yet we don’t hear about it. Part of that is because of the way suicide is reported, but also I think, we don’t want to hear about it. Because we feel helpless, we don’t know what to do. This is where just a little bit of training can make all the difference. I cant count the number of times that someone has come up to us after training, to let us know they used one or some of the techniques we taught them, and that it made such a big difference in the lives of their friend/colleague/family member.

Well, that’s my thoughts for today. I hope it hasn’t been too much of a downer for you. Suicide is a serious matter, and we need to act, we need to do something. But life is meant to be enjoyed too. So As I said, it’s a beautiful day today. I’m going to enjoy it, be grateful for the simple things like the sunshine on the water. The fresh clean water in my glass. And keep working to get the message out there.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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