MENTAL HEALTH: Workplaces push residents to breaking point
PRESSURE to perform, workplace stress and employee relationships are all becoming destructive forces affecting the mental wellbeing of Southern Downs residents.
A survey gathering data about workplace mental health will help clinicians understand what they say is becoming a common thread in their work.
Workplace issues are frequently raised by Southern Downs clients, mental health social worker Kathryn Walton said.
"Is there more we could be doing to support employees and organisations?" she asked.
Having had PTSD, depression and alcohol abuse as a result of previous employment, Warwick resident Andrew Gale thinks the answer is "yes".
Mr Gale said being discouraged from talking about problems in the workplace caused them to worsen during his 18 years as a police officer.
"I've had people die on me that I was still giving first aid to, I have had to knock on people's doors on Christmas Day to tell them that someone is not coming for Christmas lunch because they had been in a car accident," he said.
"I thought for 10 years there was something seriously wrong with me because I was getting emotionally involved. I really spent a lot of time denying my feelings and I tried to cope with it, mainly by drinking a lot of alcohol."
Warwick psychologist Mark Cary said workplace factors were often not the direct cause of complex mental illnesses, but could exacerbate existing conditions.
"For most people work is half of their day and the work environment and the nature of the work they are doing can cause stress," Mr Cary said.
"Certainly this can trigger anxiety or influence other more complex health conditions."
Ms Walton said the survey being conducted would inform new approaches that took a "proactive" stance on workplace mental health.
"Statistics show on any given day one in five people in the workplace might be experiencing depression or anxiety and we just can't ignore that," she said.
"We're hoping to collaborate with some of the other organisations in the community to offer support, training and resources that people in a whole variety of industries will be able to access next year."
While the survey has returned good results so far, Ms Walton worries some industries may fall through the gaps.
"There could be industries there that are really hurting in terms of mental health in the workplace but we haven't been able to access that at this stage," she said.
"Things like transport, manufacturing and primary industries, manufacturing industry ... those are some of the main industries our region is heavily reliant on that I would be interested to hear from."
But Mr Cary said awareness around workplace mental health was growing.
"I believe workplaces have continued to emerge as a domain that is a big part of a person's whole health and wellbeing and it is being more addressed and better understood," Mr Cary said.
The Queensland Police Service is one example of a workplace taking steps to address mental health, having launched the Our People Matter strategy earlier this year.
"The strategy is designed to create working environments that improve support to police employees and their families," a QPS spokesman said.
"There are also free counselling services available for officers who retire or leave the organisation due to medical reasons."
To take part in the workplace mental health survey, go to www.survey monkey.com/r/NCCS8YX
If you or anyone you know has been affected by this story, you can get immediate help 24/7 - phone Lifeline on 131114 or beyondblue on 1300224636.