A mentally healthy workplace, Danielle Moss explains, is a workplace that proactively identifies work-related risks to mental health, and takes actions to prevent them from having an impact on worker mental health.
Danielle is a social worker, with over 20 years of experience across Victorian public hospitals as a clinician, an educator and a leader. She has spent a considerable amount of her career working in a clinical context with patients and families to help them navigate complex systems when they’re unwell. Over time, she also developed an interest in positive psychology and wellbeing.
This led to an interest in the systems in which the people who care for others work – in other words, healthcare systems, and whether they help or hinder our workforce to thrive; and what can we do about it. So when presented with an opportunity to work on a project looking at ‘how we can create systems change to prevent mental injury in our health workforce’, she jumped at the chance.
‘When it came up a few years ago, this opportunity was something really new,’ she explains. ‘It still is really new: workplace mental health and wellbeing, from a work health and safety perspective. It’s an emerging space.’
Thriving in Health
Called Thriving in Health, the project is funded by WorkSafe’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund. It was born out of an alarming increase in mental injury claims being submitted to WorkSafe, even before the pandemic. ‘There was a concern, prior to COVID, that there was an increase in claims, as well as an anticipated continued increase,’ Danielle says. ‘It had been brewing, and it’s now been exposed.’
Noting that people with workplace mental health injuries can stay out of the workforce longer than those with physical injuries, Danielle says that something had to change. ‘Change is hard, and it often takes time. We just can’t lose sight of leaning into it, being curious, talking about it, having opportunities to engage and understand, and share expertise,’ she adds.
This is the work that Thriving in Health is focused on. A key aspect of their work is about what Danielle calls a paradigm shift. ‘Previously, we’ve focused on workplace mental health and wellbeing at an individual level – helping people cope, helping people manage stress, resilience training etc. But it’s not the responsibility of the individual, so this has to shift. We need to understand what it is that can cause stress in the workplace. And we have to actually get in there to prevent that stress.’
The WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund supports many projects, across various industries, to look at how we can create systems change, with a particular emphasis on that paradigm shift from an individual focus to a systems focus. In other words, shifting responsibility for workplace mental health from the employee to the employer, to the industry, to the system.
Peninsula Health, working together with other hospitals, coordinates the Thriving in Health project, which has a three-pronged focus over four initiatives.
It is prevention focused first and foremost, while also acknowledging the importance of promotion and response. ‘The important thing is that we prevent people becoming unwell,’ Danielle explains. ‘At the same time we promote good mental health, and we respond to issues when they arise, and support those people who work with us that have mental illness, or may be returning to the workplace [following a mental health injury].’
The four initiatives of Thriving in Health include:
- two projects with the Black Dog Institute
- Leading in Health: an on-line learning package helping leaders understand the importance of mentally healthy workplaces, as well as how to identify and manage ‘psychosocial hazards’ – factors related to the design and management of work that can cause stress – and how to create actions and behaviours that lead to better outcomes.
- Job control: improving the mental health of nurses by enhancing their job control – this means enhancing the degree of influence nurses have over the way they do their work. ‘We know if we can enhance job control that we can improve or enhance mental health.’
- the Critical Incident Response Project: a collaboration with FBG Group to establish a framework to help organisations to manage exposure to trauma or potentially traumatic events in the workplace.
- Safety Sensescaping: A partnership with a designer at RMIT to look at workplace mental health and design, and the opportunities that exist to use design to enhance workplace mental health from a preventative lens.
Danielle Moss will be presenting at the ANMF (Vic Branch) 2022 OHS conference, on Friday 18 March, on the topic of Thriving in Health and mentally healthy workplaces. Joining Danielle on the day will be speakers including:
- Peter Collins and Dmitry Rozkin from WorkSafe Victoria, providing insights on WorkSafe’s prosecutions process in healthcare
- Renata Musolino, Victorian Trades Hall Council’s OHS information officer, detailing resources available to supports HSRs, followed by an Ask Renata Q&A session
- ANMF HSR of the Year award winners Alyce Dickson and Michelle Wagner, giving a presentation of a day in the life of an HSR
- Martin Raspin, ANMF Vic Branch’s OHS Officer, reporting on the findings of the pilot OVA action campaign run by the Branch in 2021.