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Mental health first aid focus remains low despite pandemic impact

Mental health first aid focus remains low despite pandemic impact

2min 54sec read

Less than 15 percent of Albury businesses have staff trained in mental health first aid, a Better Place Project Border workplace survey has found.

While Albury continued to experience significant social, personal and business impacts because of border closures and COVID-19, the survey also found business sentiment had improved since October 2020.

Although more than two thirds of respondents said COVID-19 had impacted their work in the past 30 days and more than half said border closures impacted their work, more than half were positive about their business and/or job and 60 per cent were positive about the future.

Almost a third of respondents were eager to learn more about mental health first aid courses to address mental health in the workplace.

The Better Place Project is a workforce wellbeing joint initiative between disability employment service provider The Personnel Group and Border business group Albury Business Connect.

Mental health first aid-trained staff from The Personnel Group collected 120 survey responses during November and December 2020, after COVID-19 restrictions delayed the planned October Mental Health Month rollout.

A business concierge based at Albury Business Connect also interacted with 150 businesses across the Albury and Lavington business community to discuss mental health and collect data.

“While businesses ensure a range of first aid equipment and/or resources, including workers trained to provide first aid, the focus on mental health first aid and training in the workplace is still significantly less,” said Tracey Fraser, The Personnel Group chief executive officer.

“The second survey shows us that most businesses acknowledged the importance of talking about mental health in the workplace.

“It is encouraging to see more and more organisations adopting Employee Assistance Programs, this is evidence our business community acknowledges a mentally healthy workforce leads to happier workplaces and more prosperous communities.

“It also reaffirms that although Albury businesses have struggled in the past 12 months, our business community is resilient.”

To address the slow uptake of mental health first aid training Albury Business Connect is calling on the government to offset costs for small businesses providing workplace mental health first aid training and Employee Assistance Programs.

“The Better Place Project survey findings show there is a genuine need for continued workplace wellbeing support from government,” said Lisa Hastie, Albury Business Connect general manager.

“The key to economic recovery is further support, education, awareness and training in the mental health space.

“As a prosperous, thriving community we need to ensure mental health planning and support is entrenched in all workplaces irrespective of their size.”

In 2021 The Hon. Bronnie Taylor, Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women, provided a $25,000 grant to support the Better Place Project activities.

The grant was used to help fund the second survey and business concierge.

Key findings from the second Better Place Project wellbeing survey:

  • 62% of respondents have sometimes – always been overwhelmed by their worries
  • 55% of respondents said border closures had impacted their work in the past 30 days
  • 68% of respondents said COVID-19 had impacted their work in the past 30 days
  • 60% of respondents are positive about the future
  • 86% of businesses do not have someone trained in mental health first aid

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