Geelong should become Australia’s first “mentally healthy city”, former premier Jeff Kennett told the Indy yesterday.
He intended to approach State Government, WorkSafe and Victorian Chamber of Commerce with a proposition to run a mental health audit of all Geelong businesses.
The audit would investigate what they were doing about creating mentally healthy workplaces, he said.
Mr Kennett said six months ago he challenged a number of Geelong businesses to initiate mental health programs for employees.
Now he wanted to know the results through an audit.
Mr Kennett, the chairman of national depression initiative beyondblue, said he had “great interest” in Geelong.
“I have a long attachment to Geelong. Whether it’s a council, hospital or contracting business of five people, programs should be in place to ensure people are happy in the workplace.
“Employees will feel better when issues are resolved and they will be more productive in the workplace, delivering better results than those less happy.
“It’s going to take time but I think it’s worthwhile working towards.”
Mr Kennett said online portal Heads Up was a good starting point for businesses wanting to act on workplace mental health.
Harwood Andrews Lawyers’ Stephanie Beard said communication at the firm had improved since it began using Heads Up.
“We wanted to create a positive culture where people feel safe to come to work and can talk about mental health issues in the workplace, where people feel supported and included,” Ms Beard said.
“I looked at the Take Action tab on the Heads Up program online, which helped identify priorities. It allowed me to identify the gaps.
“It was also good to identify what we were already doing.”
Ms Beard said Harwood Andrews had also implemented a reward and recognition program for staff to nominate colleagues exceeding expectations for a gift voucher.
Research shows that one in five employees are likely to experience a mental health issue at any given time.
Untreated depression costs six million lost working days in Australia annually.
Originally published at Geelong Independent.