The gold standard in mental health

Oct 10, 2020

a photo of hands in a pile

While keeping some distance from each other to maintain our physical health in 2020, we have all appreciated how important it is to maintain positive social connections and good mental health.

Given many people spend a significant proportion of their lives at work, it’s important that organisations encourage their employees to reach out for help when they need it while fostering conversation and inclusion within the workplace.

Below we outline what The Perth Mint, as a Gold Mental Health First Aid Skilled workplace, does to support its staff, and hence their families and friends in the broader community.

By the numbers

In any given year, 20% of Australians will have experienced a mental health condition. A further one sixth of the population will suffer with symptoms of undiagnosed mental illness. Yet 65% of these people don’t seek access to professional support.

In 2017, 3,128 Australians took their own lives. It is estimated that for every person who dies by suicide, another 20 people will attempt to take their own lives.

Mental health conditions can manifest in a variety of ways at work including increased absenteeism, withdrawal, personality changes, decreased performance, conflicts with co-workers, difficulties concentrating and memory problems.

Registered psychologist and Perth Mint Group Manager Organisational Development Kristen Potter says there has been a stigma around mental health illnesses in the workplace which may impact those suffering.

“Stigma, fear of losing their job and an unsupportive workplace can all contribute to a reluctance to reach out for help.”

— Kristen Potter

“A mentally healthy workplace aims to foster an environment where people at all levels have a common goal and a commitment to positive mental health. Work demands are realistic in a way that balances the needs of the employees and the organisation. Everyone feels comfortable to speak openly about mental health and mental health conditions, without fear or stigma, creating a culture of respect and inclusivity.”

Fostering a mentally healthy workplace

Various elements such as job design, team and group factors, and organisational policy contribute to mental health and wellbeing outcomes in employees. Jobs which provide a perceived level of control and autonomy, meaningful work and variety are associated with better mental health outcomes, according to many studies.

“Team factors provide access to emotional and practical assistance and fulfil our fundamental need we have to belong,” Kristen said.

“Factors such as changes within the workplace, the level of support available, systems in place for recognising and rewarding good work, the fairness of rules and social norms, the psychological safety culture and physical work environment can all contribute.”

It is also important to look outside the workplace at pressures from home such as marital distress, abuse and violence, caring responsibilities, loss of a loved one and financial stress.

In addition, individual variants are unique and complex such as a family history of mental health problems, personality traits, coping styles, responses to stressful situations and various lifestyle factors.

Golden initiatives

As the global community has become more aware of the need to recognise mental health conditions in the same capacity as physical wellbeing and safety, initiatives have been developed to assist in mental health first aid.

This is defined as the help provided to a person who is developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of a mental health problem, or in a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate professional help is received, or the crisis resolves.

Mental Health First Aid Australia, a national not-for-profit organisation focused on mental health training and research, has developed a range of courses that teach mental health first aid strategies to members of the public.

In 2019 The Perth Mint was named a Gold Mental Health First Aid Skilled workplace by Mental Health First Aid Australia in acknowledgement of our achievements in developing mental health first aid skills.

“The recognition program celebrates organisations across Australia who not only invest in developing mental health first aid skills in their people, but also show a strong commitment to embedding the program into their organisation’s culture,” Kristen said.

“This can be implemented through actions like senior leadership support, relevant policies, supporting Mental Health First Aid Officers and continuous education and development of resources.”

To achieve a gold standard, workplaces must have trained at least 10% of staff in Mental Health First Aid and achieved completion of at least eight initiatives such as those outlined above.

The Perth Mint’s approach to a mentally healthy workplace is through an integrated framework across three key areas of promotion, protection and support.

“Promotion focuses on improving understanding and promoting mental health. Protection is about fostering a stigma-free culture and support looks at how to help the individuals in a way that works for them,” Kristen said.

R U OK bench wit two Perth Mint staff members

Acknowledging the importance of training across all levels of the organisation, The Perth Mint delivers an annual Engaging Leaders Program from Mental Health First Aid Australia which Kristen believes has a positive impact within the workplace.

Following the delivery of this program in 2019, 100% of participants stated that they felt confident to implement the learnings into the workplace.

“My favourite piece of feedback from a manager was: Remember the old days? We would've never done anything like this. We are changing, in a good way...’”, Kristen said.

In 2020 we are keeping the conversation going by creating conversation corners at our East Perth and Refinery locations with a new R U OK? branded bench in recognition of the work the R U OK? organisation in Australia does to encourage meaningful conversations around mental health.

These are designed to create an informal, inviting and friendly space and act as a reminder of the importance of taking time every day to look out for the people around us.

Next steps

While financial return on investment has not been measured, the impacts of such initiatives over the past few years have been felt by the business in other ways.
“Qualitatively we have started to see a shift in the mindsets and conversations around the business. The topic of mental health is much more prominent than it was a few years back,” Kristen said.

“We regularly celebrate events such as R U OK? Day, our CEO includes a repeated public statement demonstrating our commitment to mental health in his safety promise, our Mental Health First Aid Officers are being utilised and during COVID employee wellbeing was at the forefront of the conversation.”

Dedicated to continuous improvement, The Perth Mint’s plans moving forward involve ongoing development of leadership skills and building the range of wellness initiatives available which include an Employee Assistance Program, resilience workshops, mindfulness workshops, on-site yoga and general wellness seminars.

Learn more about careers at The Perth Mint and its commitment to people and culture here.


What is a mentally healthy workplace, Heads Up