It is important that we support our work colleagues who have a mental illness, or who may be experiencing emotional distress. Knowing how to provide that support can be hard. We may be afraid of saying the wrong thing, therefore say nothing. Saying nothing however can also be harmful.

If you supervise or manage someone who is off work due to any illness, it is important that you remain in contact with them to show your support for them. If they are away from work for more than a few weeks, speak to your HR team.

Mental health issues are likely to affect almost half of the Australian population at some stage in their lives, so encouraging these conversations at work is the right thing to do. Beyond that, there’s also a legal imperative. Workplaces have a duty of care to their staff.

Workplace stress

We know that stress is a normal response to workplace demands and helps us stay alert and perform at our best, but managing stress so that it does damage our mental health can be challenging. Heads Up have some good tools for managing workplace stress.

Talking about Mental Health at Work

R U OK promotes the importance of speaking out at work, and their website provide tips to use in the workplace. In addition, here at UQ, we would like you to promote R U OK Day at UQ in your local area and make use of the training offered to staff and students, leading up to R U OK Day.

Management tools and tips

There are a number of websites that provide tools and tips for managers who want create health workplaces, and support staff who have a mental illness. These are some that we have found to be useful:

Safe Work Australia have put together a short tip sheet on how to prevent psychological injury under work health and safety laws.

beyondblue and Heads Up have lots of tips and tools to help managers develop workplace skills so that they can create mentally healthy workplaces.

Providing mental health first aid in the workplace. These guidelines are about how an employee should tailor their approach when providing mental health first aid to a co-worker or employee they manage. The guidelines are based on the expert consensus of panels of consumers, managers and workplace mental health professionals from developed English-speaking countries.

Return to work is a website designed to help anyone involved in the process of returning to work after absence due to depression, an anxiety disorder or a related mental health problem. It focuses on actions that employers, employees, colleagues and family and friends can take to ensure that return to work is successful and that the risk of relapse is lower.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has published a practical guide for managers who want to support workers with a Mental Illness.

Sometimes talking through options and strategies may be useful. The University's EAP provider (DTC) offers a service called managerAssist. managerAssist is a telephone service to managers and supervisors. The EAP counsellors are able to provide support and information on a wide range of topics relating to mental illness and how to support a staff member who is becoming unwell.

Getting help at UQ

The University of Queensland employs a psychologist in the role of Staff Support and Rehabilitation Adviser, to assist staff who have a mental illness or may be developing a mental health difficulty to ensure that staff are supported within the workplace.

Prevention is always better than a cure, so participating and utilising the UQ Wellness Program supports may help you keep well, and build your emotional fitness.


For more information, or if you have any suggestions about other links that would be useful, please contact Felicity Couperthwaite