Building mentally healthy workplaces


Healthy workplaces promote good mental health and wellbeing – they are positive and productive and help attract and retain employees because they’re great places to work. 

The term ‘mental health’ is often used as a general term to describe an illness such as depression or anxiety, but more accurately it denotes a psychological and emotional condition which may be positive or may reflect a mental health illness.  BlueScope’s new five-year HSE strategy, accompanied by a revised HSEC policy, introduces a holistic approach to building a healthy workplace and to understanding health and wellbeing that takes into account the need to be aware of colleagues’ mental health. 

Business units are developing individual programs in support of the new strategy. At New Zealand Steel and Pacific Steel employees have the opportunity to participate in onsite training led by St Johns New Zealand to equip them to deal with mental distress. Over 160 people attended the first session which, through in-depth discussions and scenario-based activities, delivers skills to recognise mental distress, and confidence to provide initial support and to
guide a person towards professional help. Participants receive a Mental Health First Aid workshop certificate, and a badge which identifies them as someone in whom people can confide. The badge displays the ‘1737’ number which anyone in New Zealand can call to seek assistance from a trained counsellor. 

The training has been held monthly and New Zealand Steel is establishing a support group so that those who have completed the training can debrief and discuss issues that may arise from assisting others. St John New Zealand praised the Company for opening up the training to employees at all levels of the Company, as typically such training is only given to limited groups. 

In Australian Steel Products BlueScope’s first ‘Mentally Healthy Workplaces Framework’ describes the elements, environment and activities that help sustain a mentally healthy workplace. Sessions offered under the framework have been enthusiastically received:  1010 people have attended general awareness sessions in every state; more than 110 managers and supervisors have participated in introductory mental health awareness sessions; and 95 people have completed formal Mental Health First Aid Certification.

An online toolkit offers information on mental health, including links to external support services. As well, BlueScope’s Employee Assistance Program has a 24 hour “Manager Hotline” service to assist in giving support on mental health issues and connecting with expert psychologists.