When you think of being ‘defence ready’, workplace resilience and wellbeing may seem like a low priority. However, a strong, healthy mental state can impact the people and businesses in our industry in significant ways.
This topic is the latest to be covered in our Defence Ready Seminar Series 2022. It’s facilitated by Dr Sally Fitzpatrick, Clinical Psychologist, researcher and Program Manager at leading national institute dedicated to improving mental health and wellbeing, Everymind.
If you’re wondering whether to grab a spot on this course, the answer is ‘yes’. While mental health can be a tricky subject to tackle, it will give you the tools to open the conversation and build a stronger business.
What does the course cover?
The ‘Defence Industry’s Workforce - Resilience and Wellbeing’ course is designed to provide literacy around what mental health is and what some of the terminology actually means – including in the context of the workplace.
It covers how to communicate about mental health in an effective way: How do you start a conversation? How do you talk to people about it in a safe way? It also dives into the strategies you can use to build a mentally healthy workplace in defence.
Having this knowledge is so important, now, perhaps, more than ever.
Mental health and defence
The reason it’s so important is because of the rise in mental illness we’re seeing here in Australia and worldwide.
COVID-19 has seen an increase in symptoms of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts over the past two years, including among small and medium size business owners and employees.
Businesses in defence are no exception. In fact, according to Dr Fitzpatrick, the unique nature of the industry further compounds the risk of developing these types of mental illness – something you may have seen or experienced first-hand.
“Businesses that work in defence are under constant pressure,” she says. “They tend to have very tight deadlines and very tight contractual arrangements for very large delivery.”
“Many people working in the industry are also veterans from the defence forces, a group who may exhibit increased symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and other illnesses.”
Unfortunately, many business owners are unsure how to respond to mental health issues, whether it’s affecting them or a member of staff. Plus, they don’t understand the difference between mental ill-health and wellbeing.
“The other issue is stigma”, Dr Fitzpatrick continues. “The stigma associated with mental ill-health is high, particularly in industries such as defence, which tend to be male-dominated.”
People find it hard to talk about feelings or to acknowledge that they’re not okay. In addition, most small business owners don’t know what to say. This means issues of resilience and wellbeing are being avoided on both fronts.
The business impact of mental ill-health
While the impact of not talking about or dealing with mental resilience and wellbeing at all or in the right way is felt first by the people experiencing it and their families, it can have a significant knock-on effect in the workplace.
Experiencing mental ill-health, whether anxiety, depression or other manifestations, can affect a person’s ability to come to work and do their job well.
“So what we know is that mentally unhealthy workplaces are going to have increased staff turnover. They’re also going to have more sick days, a poorer work culture and increased ‘presenteeism,” says Dr Fitzpatrick. In other words, people will be at work, but they won’t be present or effective in their job.
Ultimately, this impacts productivity, culture and your bottom line. You’re simply not going to have a business to run if you don’t deal with it.
So now’s a good time to deal with it.