Australian initiative to tackle UK’s workplace blues

UK businesses will trial Australia’s workplace mental health awareness program to address the current gap in training and enable effective workforce management.

The London-based Sainsbury Centre chose the Australian beyondblue National Workplace Program following an international research and review of available training programs.

The Sainsbury Centre is a national charity which aims to improve the quality of life of people with mental health problems through research, development and analysis.

The program will be piloted with seven companies including the submarines business of Rolls-Royce, Kent County Council and the UK Department of Health.

The centre commissioned the University of Nottingham to assess the applicability of the program to the UK environment. The analysis concluded the program had significantly lifted the Australian workplace’s understanding of how to manage depression at work and knowledge of where to go for support, and also its quality assurance systems would enable large scale delivery across the UK.

The centre’s chief executive Angela Greatley said the beyondblue initiative was expected to help British business reduce the cost of mental distress to individuals, workplaces and the economy.

“Last year, Sainsbury Centre found that mental health problems cost every employer in Britain just over £1,000 per employee per year or almost £26 billion across the UK economy.

“Effective management of mental health at work could save around 30 per cent of these costs – yet employer awareness of mental health issues in the UK is poor.

“This has been raised as a major political issue in the UK and the Government is now focused on helping more people with mental health problems to obtain and remain in employment,” Ms Greatley said.

The training program will be delivered by a team of UK-based trainers who has been trained by Sainsbury Centre and beyondblue.

Under the pilot program, the centre will evaluate the effectiveness of the training and its feasibility for delivery in the UK with line managers. The results are scheduled to be published next year.

Beyondblue CEO Leonie Young said: “We know this program works and we are very pleased that after rigorous academic research and evaluation it has emerged as the best of its type in the world. We look forward to seeking the results of the pilot program.”

The centre’s research and development manager Helen Lockett said if the trial proved to be as successful in the UK as it was in Australia, it would seek to expand the program throughout the country, regardless of business types and sizes.

“No employer can afford to ignore mental distress, yet the majority of UK line managers do not know how to help a member of staff when they become unwell. And many people end up taking time off sick or losing their jobs because they do not get the right help and support early enough,” Ms Lockett said.  

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