A new report has identified many tools to help people recover from mental health conditions at work. And while few tools had been academically evaluated, they generally had positive effects.
SIRA commissioned the Recovery at Work Support Tools Rapid Review to inform the mental health recovery at work program it is developing in support of the NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy 2018-2022.
The research aimed to:
- identify existing tools to help people stay in touch with the workplace when absent from work and experiencing mental distress
- encourage and enable recovery at work and return to work for those experiencing mental distress1
- identify tools to empower individuals, business leaders and service providers to facilitate recovery at work or return to work for mental health after mental distress.
Tools rated positively in the study generally recommended:
- reducing the stigma around mental health at work
- developing a mental health policy
- recognising mental health symptoms and addressing the causes, where possible
- working collaboratively to support recovery at work or return to work
- staying connected and keeping in touch
- maintaining confidentiality and trust
The tools commonly advised business leaders to consider flexible working arrangements, workplace modifications, reviewed job expectations, realistic goal-setting and task lists as ways to encourage recovery at or return to work.
The study by Monash University also highlighted tools that had been evaluated and shown promising results, such as:
- MATES in Construction – a prevention and early intervention program – that targets construction workers at risk of suicide in Queensland.
- the READY tool to help Australian workers decide if they should disclose their mental health condition at work
- ECO Return to Work, a guided e-health intervention module that encourages sick-listed workers to return to work in the Netherlands.
Best rated tools
The report identified the following tools as being the easiest to access, understand and use, as well as many others it rated almost as good.
- Return to work: Returning to work after experiencing mental illness and other mental health issues, is a downloadable brochure by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
- The HeadsUp Library provides access to brochures, factsheets, wallet cards and templates to kick-off your return to work or recovery at work discussions and plans.
- Sane Australia’s Mental health and the workplace webpage has advice and case studies on how to support the worker, employer and colleagues for a return to work.
- Sane Australia’s Getting back to work has advice to help a person prepare to return to work with a mental health condition. It includes case studies, a checklist, and information on how to disclose the condition.
For business leaders
- HeadsUp’s Help others stay at work is an online resource explaining how to manage and support workers who are suffering mental distress. It includes templates for return to work discussions and plans.
- The Tool for managers: What you need to know about mental health is a brochure with tips on how to prevent mental health distress, how to recognise it and assist with return to work, from the Conference Board of Canada.
- beyondblue’s brochure Supporting the return to work of employees with depression or anxiety explains these mental health conditions and includes tips on how to support a worker’s return to work.
- HeadsUp has a brochure on Managing someone with a mental health condition that encourages employers to support workers to recover at work. It contains tips and links to resources.
- The Centre for Youth Mental Health’s brochure aims to help organisations support a worker to return to work after an episode of depression, anxiety or a related disorder. The brochure is called Helping employees successfully return to work following depression, anxiety or a related mental health problem
- Small business owners may benefit from the Mental health strategic plan, which explains potential stressors, how to identify and manage mental health issues, and plan to return to work. This resource from the Victorian Small Business Commission also has sample mental health plans.
- The Business mental health plan has templates to help small business owners to manage their own mental health. It’s provided by Ahead for Business, with assistance from Everymind and the icare foundation.
For health providers
- Monash University’s Clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and management of work-related mental health conditions in general practice aims to guide general practitioners in the treatment of patients with mental health conditions.
 The report uses ‘mental distress’ to capture various mental health conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, symptoms of depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.