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Good Practice Guide

Leader mental health training programs

Mental health training should begin with leaders increasing their understanding and knowledge of mental health, the different types of mental illnesses and how to support employees experiencing mental illness.

How to select an effective training program

There are numerous mental health educational training programs which highlight the signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses and offer appropriate ways to provide initial and ongoing support. A recent Australian study sought to identify key mental health training needs of managers. Surveyed managers reported wanting to increase their knowledge/skills regarding:

  • recognising signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses;
  • strategies to support and manage employees with depression;
  • the role of leaders in promoting and supporting good mental health;
  • the impact of organisational culture/working conditions on mental health; and
  • strategies for managing personal mental health and building resilience.

The following training programs have been selected on the basis on these requirements. In addition, the following training programs are evidence based and designed to optimise the adult learning experience. Additionally, depending on the format, they are presented by qualified mental health clinicians, in most cases registered Psychologists.

A consideration when selecting an effective training program is the format in which it is presented. The following educational training programs are presented in a variety of formats, designed to accommodate different learning preferences. For example, individuals who learn through auditory means will prefer interactive workshops where they can engage in discussion. Whereas, visual and read/write learners will prefer presentation style formats that involve PowerPoint slides and videos.

Ideally, selecting an educational training program should be made in consultation with leaders partaking to ensure their learning needs are considered so that the most appropriate program is selected.

Mental Health First Aid Australia

Established in 2000, Mental Health First Aid Australia is a not-for-profit organisation, providing internationally recognised evidence based mental health training programs and courses to Australian workplaces. The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program provides participants with knowledge of mental illness and offers advice for approaching and helping individuals who are displaying symptoms of mental illness. This programs also aims to decrease the stigma around mental illness which often prevent individuals from seeking help early on. Academic research has found MHFA training can improve knowledge of mental health conditions and an understanding of what are appropriate initial response strategies as well as increase confidence in helping someone with mental health issues.

Further reading

Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFAA) provide an evidence-based, anti-stigma, mental health training program for workplaces. This can be taken online as an e-learning course through MHFAA directly, or through an accredited instructor face to face. A specialist senior leader course is also coming soon.

Superfriend Mental Health and Well-being Training

Superfriend began as a collaboration between Australian superannuation funds and insurers, with the aim of improving mental health and reducing the incidence of suicide amongst their members and staff. Superfriend partners with profit-to-member superannuation funds and insurers to provides solutions, advocacy and insights for this sector, its members and employers. Superfriend has developed a range of evidence-based mental health and well-being training programs and resources.

Further reading

Superfriend offers paid mental health and well-being training specifically for managers and aims to provide the confidence, skills, strategies and tools to ensure they and their teams are supported, safe and productive at work.

Black Dog Institute – workplace mental health and well-being programs

The Black Dog Insitute runs a variety of evidence-based programs on topics in workplace mental health. The Black Dog Institute provides customised training workshops based on an organisation’s specific needs and budget. The institute’s training on managing a team for well-being helps people leaders to understand their pivotal role in fostering the well-being of their teams through the behaviours they model, and their ability to observe and act when they notice that team members are struggling. It additionally explains the key role of leaders in successfully integrating team members back into work after a period of sickness related absence.

Further reading

The Black Dog Institute runs a face to face workshop specifically on managing a team for well-being.

Mindful Employer

Mindful Employer is a national workplace mental health training provider, delivering evidence-based information in an experiential learning style. Mindful Employer is endorsed by SANE Australia and  customises workshops for organisations to build a culture of valuing and protecting the mental health and well-being of their teams. Mindful Employer’s 3-hour workshop on leading a mentally health workplace has been specifically designed for people leaders to increase their understanding of mental health and develop skills to address mental health concerns with employees. It also provides leaders with resources they can access to support employees who are experiencing mental illness.

Further reading

Mindful Employer training programs includes a three hour workshop on ‘Leading a mentally health workplace’.