Mental Health is something that I am deeply passionate about as unfortunately I have seen first-hand the pain, the loss, and the feeling of complete hopelessness.  I myself have suffered from depression when I battled childhood trauma as an adult and luckily, through counselling and the support of family and friends I have come out the other end but I know how hard it is to ask for help in the first instance.

Besides my own demons I have also dealt with the loss of a loved one through suicide.  Why couldn’t we see it, why didn’t they ask for help and what could have we done to avoid it are questions you continually ask yourself.

We lost Scott’s cousin a few years ago to suicide but every anniversary we still feel the same pain and still ask the same questions and unfortunately as tough as life is and as high as our suicide rate has been, it is expected to rise due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19.

Did you know that:

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged between 15 and 44. It deeply affects friends, families and communities.
  • More than 3000 Australians end their lives each year — this is about 8 people a day. We lose more people to suicide than die on our roads each year.
  • Calls to Lifeline are up by 25 per cent on last year, while Beyond Blue has seen a 40 per cent leap in calls since before the pandemic.
  • Crisis and support services have also experienced increased demand, with calls to Lifeline up 23 per cent in the four weeks to May 10 compared with the same period a year earlier. Kids Helpline had a 51 per cent increase in calls, emails and web chat, while Beyond Blue’s contacts across all platforms were up 57 per cent.
  • Beyond Blue’s coronavirus wellbeing support service received 4938 calls in the five weeks to May 20, with isolation, anxiety, worry and depression the most common reasons for calling.
  • Experts are warning suicide rates will continue to rise due to the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The duty of employers under the model WHS laws apply to psychological health too. This is a stressful time for all Australians, and you must do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate and reduce the psychological risks to workers and others at the workplace. Under WHS laws, you must eliminate or minimise the risk to psychological health and safety arising from the work carried out by your business or undertaking as much as you reasonably can.

FTMA Australia created a Fact Sheet outlining steps you can take to address mental health within your workplace and we encourage you to download the COVID-19 Mental Health Fact Sheet.

I have no doubt that many in our industry are stressed with the uncertainty of the Pandemic, especially the uncertainty of whether we will go into stricter lockdowns.  However, this is not just about your employee’s mental health it is about business owners putting in strategies, so you don’t burn out.

The impact on business owners, especially family owned businesses is huge.  Whether you are concerned with the financial wellbeing of your business, stressing about the impact on your team or on having to lay people off, the toll on your health is real.

A fabricator recently said to me that if I were a piece of machinery, they would have written me off years ago, as they tried to stress the importance of me taking care of myself as well.  I would ask all business owners to consider what will happen if you are not at the helm and if you don’t look after yourself?  Your businesses survival is dependant on your survival so look in to the available resources such as the FTMA Fact sheet or this article which outlines ways to help – Heads Up – Mental Health & the Workplace.

If your business needs any help in accessing these services or putting programs in place please contact FTMA if you need support as Mental Health is everyone’s responsibility and we want to ensure above all else that people survive COVID-19.

Kersten Gentle

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