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What can your business do as part of ‘R U OK? Day’?

There are a number of ways that workplaces can better focus on, and normalise, mental health issues as R U OK? Day approaches, according to AccessEAP.

R U OK? Day, the national day of action dedicated to highlighting and reminding everyone to simply ask, ‘Are you OK?’ gives us all a chance to ask a simple yet important question that can offer support to people who may be dealing with overwhelming pressures and emotions.

When it comes to wellness in the workplace, asking that question is especially pertinent, according to AccessEAP clinical director Marcela Slepica.

“Over the course of an adult’s life, they will spend up to 4,821 days at work. This creates an opportunity for managers and HR leaders to start a dialogue with their staff who may be struggling to cope and to create an environment of acceptance and to normalise asking for help,” she said.

“Managers can ensure they are providing helpful information and the support structures which employees may need.”

“R U OK? Day is the starting point of communication within the workplace. However, it’s imperative to consider that a long-term commitment to suicide prevention is vital and should be instilled within every workplace,” she said.

AccessEAP offered four tips and ideas on how to encourage workforces to come together and participate in a conversation that may help support someone at risk of suicide:

Run an R U OK? Day session

Open up the conversation amongst the team, the organisation suggested.

“Host a day session where staff members can be informed about the signs that someone may be at risk of suicide and the procedures to deal with it. This will help dispel the taboo around the topic. Encourage activities where staff members are taught to open up and listen to each other, breaking down barriers,” it said.

“At the end of the day, gift everyone with a physical token, such as a postcard, tip sheet, stress ball or pen and notebook, to act as a reminder of the day going forward and to reinforce to the individual that help is always on hand.”

Challenge managers to have a conversation

“Managers are in a unique place to promote positive mental health at work, and also in a position of care to their staff members. For many people, going to the boss isn’t always the desirable option as they fear it’s inappropriate or they could even lose their job,” AccessEAP continued.

“Therefore, it’s a responsibility for managers to approach the person they may feel worried about and have a discussion on what can be done to help, including referring them to their EAP for confidential advice, if the company has one.”

Explore a peer support ambassador program

Consider introducing a scheme where a person within your team is trained and able to have a peer-to-peer conversation with other staff members regarding their mental health issues or concerns, encouraging them to seek help when needed, the organisation advised.

Know when to take action

“If an employee makes any reference to suicide or self-harm, ask them directly, ‘Are you thinking about hurting yourself?’”

Unless the answer is a direct and clear “no”, immediately escalate to an appropriate person. Your options may include a manager or human resources representative, an existing support person or the emergency department, it said.