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Firms need better mental health strategies

Helen Ayres of Holding Redlich and David Burroughs of Communicorp explain the importance of firms having strong mental health strategies in place to monitor the well-being of their employees.

Video transcript below:

Reporter:  The legal profession is undoubtedly a high stress environment, so it’s vital for firms to be monitoring the mental health of their employees and trying as much as possible to assist with any issues.  Helen Ayres of Holding Redlich agrees that this is vital.

Helen Ayres, National Human Resources Manager, Holding Redlich
Helen Ayres:
 It’s very important with the legal industry in particular having about 49% of lawyers likely to experience depression at some time.  I think it’s important to have policies and procedures and programmes in place to address that.  I think that what we need to do is remove the stigma of mental health and put forward some positive initiatives to address it.

The most common stress related, whether it be family, personal issues, health related issues or there can be work issues, the legal industry is a stressful environment, it can be positive stress, it can be negative stress.  So what we have put in place is an employee assistance programme and also some health and wellbeing programmes that help to address that.

I think also what’s important is to have a range of other initiatives to make sure that work is also a fun place to be, so we can balance more stressful times with less stressful times.

Reporter:  David Burroughs of CommuniCorp says there is a lot organisations can do.

David Burroughs, Principal Psychologist, CommuniCorp Group
David Burroughs:
 Well there’s lots of things organisations can be looking out for and the red flags, there is a huge number the other people can see.  Most people can recognise when somebody is in very psychological distress.  People can see when people are emotionally suffering but people are often very reluctant to intervene and have a conversation. So by giving general staff the confidence and capability to recognise the stress in an individual, initiate a conversation and  know where to refer to internally, that’s a big thing on its own.  That’s one of what we call psychological safety foundation skill that we think all organisations should have.

Reporter:  Burroughs says recognising changes in behaviour is the first step and not just interpersonally but systemically as well.

David Burroughs:  If we can recognise the change in somebody’s behaviour, that’s often an indicator there is some degree of psychological distress there.  It’s critical that organisations don’t try and turn their staff into amateur psychologists, it’s not, not even altogether appropriate to be training people on all the different types of mental health issues that are out there.  What is important most give people confidence and capability if they suspect somebody is having a hard time.  I think that’s the key thing for organisations.

Over and above that though, if you look at corporate Australia there is a huge number of red flags that people need to be aware of.  Absenteeism, presenteeism, declines in performance, grievance complaints, their AP usage, you know there is a whole range of metrics and red flags that organisations have available to them that are indicative of a psychological health problem within the workplace.  So it’s really important we don’t just look at it from a people perspective, we look at it from a systems perspective, what are the red flags available in those systems as well.