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What does it mean to Detect Illness?

The Detect Illness building block increases the capability of leaders and employees to identify, take action on, and monitor mental health issues in the workplace.

Empowering leaders and employees with knowledge about mental health enables them to look out for and assist their colleagues who are experiencing mental illness access help. In turn, possessing knowledge about mental health conditions and resources enables leaders and employees to monitor their own well-being and access appropriate resources in a timely manner.

Key strategies

Research shows us there are three main areas workplaces can act on to have a strong detecting illness focus: 1-3

  • leader education;
  • employee education; and
  • monitoring mental health.

Fact

Early intervention (specifically early identification and facilitating access to quality mental health care) is associated with a 492% Return on investment as calculated by comparing early intervention and treatment costs with subsequent reduction in absenteeism and improvement in work.4

Why is it important to Detect Illness?

Early detection and treatment of mental health issues has the potential to minimise harm to an employee and reduce the length of any absence from work.

Research shows that people who are able to detect changes in mental health are more likely to promote mental health resources to others, and also seek help themselves sooner.6 However, a key reason why employees with mental health concerns do not seek assistance and support is the perception that their leader does not possess the knowledge or skills to offer appropriate, non-judgemental support.

30% of Australian leaders themselves report that they do not address mental health issues in their workplace due to a lack of understanding of, and training in, supporting employees experiencing mental health issues. 7

When a leader develops the knowledge, skills and abilities to detect mental illness, the benefits to their organisation are substantial. Research highlights employees whose leader has completed mental health training are more likely to seek out and use available mental health resources than employees whose leader has not. 8 In addition,  leaders who receive mental health training share more information with their workplace about mental health and mental health resources. They also report being more supportive of other employees’ mental health issues, a decrease in stigmatising attitudes towards mental health, actively encourage employees to use workplace mental health resources and increased insight into their own mental health. 9,10

Fact

Anxiety and depression can be as debilitating as a serious physical illness, yet less than half of the people experiencing these conditions seek help.11

Research-backed strategies to Detect Illness in your workplace

To effectively detect illness, organisations should build the capability of leaders and employees to identify, take action on and monitor mental health issues in the workplace.

Leader education

Research shows that leaders are often in the best position to detect an employee experiencing mental illness within their team.12  As such, it is important that leaders be educated first with regards to understanding the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Training leaders to understand, appreciate and detect mental health issues helps to lay the foundations for a supportive workplace culture.13

Research shows that leaders who received three hours of mental health training (including both information and role playing) share more mental health information and resources than leaders who do not receive any training.14

Recent Australian research identified the following as key components of mental health training for leaders:15

  • be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems;
  • know/have strategies to support and manage employees with depression and anxiety;
  • understand the role of leaders in promoting and supporting good mental health;
  • understand the impact of organisational culture on mental health; and
  • know/have strategies for managing your own mental health and building resilience.

Ideally, selecting a mental health training program should be done in consultation with leader/s to ensure their learning needs and styles are considered and the most appropriate program is selected.

Resource

For information on how to select an appropriate leader mental health educational training program and provider, please see our guide in the resource section.

Employee education

After leaders and managers have been educated about mental health conditions and developed appropriate skills to address mental health issues in the workplace, the focus should expand to all employees. Currently, only 52% of Australian employees believe they have the knowledge and ability to advise a colleague on appropriate support options for mental health issues.16 This statistic can be greatly improved through providing mental health training to employees.

All employees will benefit from receiving mental health training to equip them with the knowledge to recognise changes in the mental health of themselves and their colleagues. In fact, Australian research has found significant improvements in the detection and treatment of mental health conditions when employees receive mental health training, compared to when they do not.17

The key outcomes for effective employee mental health training programs are:

  • increase employees’ understanding of mental health;
  • employees are able to recognise signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions; and
  • employees can develop skills to assist colleagues experiencing mental health issues.

Selecting a mental health training program should be done in consultation with employees, to ensure learning needs and styles are considered and the most appropriate program is selected.

Resource

For information on employee mental health educational training programs and providers, please see our guide in the resource section.

Monitor mental health

Mental health training for leaders and employees should be an ongoing process, and not a standalone, once off activity. Equipping employees and leaders with the tools and skills needed to appropriately and effectively engage in discussions about mental health, is essential for monitoring mental health in the workplace.18 Employees and leaders should be encouraged to continually monitor the mental health of themselves and those around them in the workplace, and be encouraged to approach a colleague they are concerned about.19

The following strategies are designed to assist workplaces with monitoring the mental health of their employees:

  • provide annual ‘refresher’ mental health training courses;
  • role-model starting a conversation with an employee you are concerned about or seeking help if you have concerns yourself;
  • train mental health first aid officers;
  • ensure leadership team reports contain measures of employee well-being and are regularly reviewed and discussed;
  • ensure Human Resources and Work Health and Safety functions monitor mental health and well-being trends; and
  • ensure mental health is a regular topic at leadership and employee meetings.

Resource

For information on monitoring mental health strategies and programs, please see our guide in the resource section.

References

  1. Gayed, A., Milligan-Saville, J. S., Nicholas, J., Bryan, B. T., LaMontagne, A. D., Milner, A., … & Glozier, N. (2018). Effectiveness of training workplace managers to understand and support the mental health needs of employees: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 75(6), 462-470.
  2. Bovopoulos, N., Jorm, A. F., Bond, K. S., LaMontagne, A. D., Reavley, N. J., Kelly, C. M., … & Martin, A. (2016). Providing mental health first aid in the workplace: a Delphi consensus study. BMC psychology, 4(1), 41.
  3. Lagerveld, S. E., Bültmann, U., Franche, R. L., Van Dijk, F. J. H., Vlasveld, M. C., Van der Feltz-Cornelis, C. M., … & Nieuwenhuijsen, K. (2010). Factors associated with work participation and work functioning in depressed workers: a systematic review. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(3), 275-292.
  4. Australian government : Australian Public Service Commission (Working together: Promoting mental health and well-being at work. Retrieved from https://www.comcare.gov.au/promoting/Creating_mentally_healthy_workplaces/mental_health_and_well-being

  5. Kitchener, B. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2004). Mental health first aid training in a workplace setting: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN13249129]. BMC psychiatry, 4(1), 23.
  6. Lagerveld, S. E., Bültmann, U., Franche, R. L., Van Dijk, F. J. H., Vlasveld, M. C., Van der Feltz-Cornelis, C. M., … & Nieuwenhuijsen, K. (2010). Factors associated with work participation and work functioning in depressed workers: a systematic review. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(3), 275-292.
  7. Oakie, T., Smith, N. A., Dimoff, J. K., & Kelloway, E. K. (2018). Coworker health awareness training: An evaluation. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, 23(4). 
  8. Dimoff, J. K., & Kelloway, E. K. (2019). With a little help from my boss: The impact of workplace mental health training on leader behaviors and employee resource utilization. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(1), 4-19.
  9. Kitchener, B. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2004). Mental health first aid training in a workplace setting: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN13249129]. BMC psychiatry, 4(1), 23.
  10. Dimoff, J. K., Kelloway, E. K., & Burnstein, M. D. (2016). Mental health awareness training (MHAT): The development and evaluation of an intervention for workplace leaders. International Journal of Stress Management, 23(2), 167-187.
  11. Ellis, A. M., Casey, T. W., & Krauss, A. D. (2017). Setting the foundation for well-being: Evaluation of a supervisor-focused mental health training. Occupational Health Science, 1(1-2), 67-88.
  12. Dimoff, J. K., & Kelloway, E. K. (2019). With a little help from my boss: The impact of workplace mental health training on leader behaviors and employee resource utilization. Journal of Occupational Health Pychology,24(1), 4-19.
  13. Shann, C., Martin, A., & Chester, A. (2014). Improving workplace mental health: a training needs analysis to inform beyondblue’s online resource for leaders. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 52(3), 298-315.
  14. TNS. (2014). State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia. Melbourne: beyondblue.
  15. Kitchener, B. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2004). Mental health first aid training in a workplace setting: a randomized controlled trial [ISRCTN13249129]. BMC psychiatry, 4(1), 23.
  16. Gayed, A., LaMontagne, A. D., Milner, A., Deady, M., Calvo, R. A., Christensen, H., … & Harvey, S. B. (2018). A New Online Mental Health Training Program for Workplace Managers: Pre-Post Pilot Study Assessing Feasibility, Usability, and Possible Effectiveness. JMIR mental health, 5(3), e10517.
  17. LaMontagne, A. D., Martin, A., Page, K. M., Reavley, N. J., Noblet, A. J., Milner, A. J., … & Smith, P. M. (2014). Workplace mental health: developing an integrated intervention approach. BMC psychiatry, 14(1), 131.
Next step

Support Illness

The Support Illness building block aims to remove barriers to employees seeking help, and to provide readily accessible mental health support for employees.