Putting mental health and wellbeing first

In week two of National Safe Work Month, the AITC is focussing on the links between mental health and wellbeing and workplace health and safety (WHS). The College’s WHS coordinator Jess Mangan explains the direct correlation between mental health and the ability for one to make safe choices in the workplace.

“It comes down to fitness for work,” says Jess. “To be able to do a job, and do it safely, you need to be in the right frame of mind. Anything that affects your decision making can lead to workplace incidents. When we have lots of things on our mind, it can lead to distraction.”

“When people are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing, they are less likely to make decisions that are safe and healthy,” says Jess. “At the AITC, we want our employees and young people to be safe and healthy whether they are at work, on campus, out in industry, or at home. We don’t want them to be affected by unsafe choices.”

“If someone is going through struggles with their mental health and wellbeing, there is the added risk that they might not be sleeping well, or that they may be self-medicating. This can further affect someone’s decision making skills and behaviours in the workplace,” says Jess.

In addition, if one is dealing with a physical injury, they may experience psychological issues as well. “The two are closely linked,” says Jess. “Even if the physical injury is not hugely serious, it can lead to poor mental health. This can present as a lack of confidence when getting back to work, anxiety, or even delayed recovery.”

The AITC supports the mental health and wellbeing of young people and employees with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider which is available to everyone in the College community, including young people and their families. “The EAP provider we selected has a proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing,” says Jess.

“People who use the program can do a wellbeing check that results in a wellbeing score relative to the population. Those with a result that shows an elevated risk will stepped up to the appropriate level of care” says Jess. In addition, College young people all have access to a Personal Industry Coach (PIC) on campus, who provides first line coaching, mentoring, and support to the young people. “PICs are the communication conduit between young people and guardians, and work closely with the industry and education teams,” says Sunshine Coast PIC, Melanie Snow. “I work with all of the young people, but am also specifically called upon to assist those who may be struggling to demonstrate the AITC values and meet the employability metrics.”

Fittingly, the theme for National Safe Work Month is WHS through COVID-19. This week, that theme is extremely applicable as the pandemic continues to impact the mental health and wellbeing of many. “This year, we have visited the depths of ourselves, and experienced isolation and uncertainty,” says Jess. “There were many of us who didn’t know if or when we would return to work after COVID-19 initially hit. We were worried about our personal situations and the national and global situation as the pandemic continues and the future is uncertain.”

“We need to take a unique approach to this unique situation,” says Jess. “Connection helps a lot, even if it is not physical. Even though here in Queensland we are not currently experiencing severe lockdowns, people are still impacted, and people are still struggling. It will be ongoing.”

The AITC takes the mental health and wellbeing of our employees, young people, and families very seriously. We strive to do our best to support the entire College community both inside and outside of work.