Improving mental wellness in the workplace

Travis Dillon is chief executive of agribusiness giant Ruralco, with responsibility for 2000 staff spread across regional and remote areas of Australia, where one suicide affects 135 people or, in many cases, the whole population.

Man smiling in field of grass

I have seen firsthand the impact suicide has on workmates who have lost family and friends to suicide. It is devastating and we can do something about it,’ Dillon says.

Ruralco has partnered with Lifeline to ensure its workers are equipped to deal with conversations about suicide and mental health, and know how to recognise, respond and refer those people to Lifeline services.

‘Once the taboo is broken,’ Dillon says, ‘something unexpected happens.’

‘People forget to be embarrassed and they share. They talk about their personal experiences, their worries and their hope that they can help others who might be suicidal.’

That fits well with a volunteer corps of mental wellness champions, according to Alan Stokes, a Lifeline telephone crisis supporter and training facilitator.

‘They can be called ‘mental wellness wardens’, just as your office might have a safety warden or first-aid officer,’ Stokes says.

Dillon says he thinks the idea has merit.

‘Schools and universities have counsellors, pastoral care and other support professionals. Needing guidance is not something we grow out of once we leave the education system – if anything, it probably increases. From a corporate governance and responsibility perspective, it makes sense.’

  • Lifeline suggests corporate leaders adopt a proactive approach: *Seek executive support to develop a suicide prevention strategy.
    Call for expressions of interest among staff to complete an accidental counsellor course. To find out more about accidental counsellor courses, contact Lifeline Northern Beaches on 02 9949 5522 or Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury on 02 9498 8805.
  • Appoint accidental counsellors as mental wellness wardens across the organisation.
  • Incorporate accidental counsellor training in every orientation program for new workers.
  • Support efforts to develop world best practice in suicide prevention and support for sufferers of mental illness among your staff.
    If you need support with a crisis or suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Resources that can assist you managing mental health in your workplace can be found on our website.

Remember, a conversation could save a life. So, ask RUOK? on 14 September.

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