Our people look after your people

We are pleased to be partnering with over 1 100 customer organisations to deliver on our Vision to have all workplaces mentally healthy. Over the past 12 months we have delivered close to 50 000 counselling hours, close to 900 Manager Support Hotline sessions, 805 Conflict Resolution hours, close to 1 500 CIR hours and around 3 000 training hours with 250 hours being for Domestic and Family Violence training. Use of our Nutrition Consultation and Financial Coaching are also showing healthy growth.

We are very happy with these results but what does it mean for you as our valued customers? It’s how our people look after your people.

Higher utilisation means we are helping more employees, especially in higher risk industries, which means support is getting through. Utilisation has increased to 4.0% (up from 3.6%). This remains below the global average of 5% and well below the mental health issues in the community of 20%. That said, the increase is certainly encouraging.



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Government Employees Increasingly Seeking Mental Health Support

Government workers are increasingly likely to personally reach out for help with a range of mental wellbeing issues according a review of referrals made between 2013 and 2018 by public administration professionals

Up 14 per cent in this sector, self-referrals for mental wellbeing services make up almost three quarters (73%) of cases. Conversely, referrals by supervisors and managers (8%), HR (5%) and colleagues (5%) were collectively down by 9%.

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP says: “Government workers are familiar with the Employee Assistance support provided by their organisation and so utilisation has always been higher in the public sector. We have seen an increase in employees accessing the service due to ongoing changes occurring in the public sector. There are mergers with government departments and restructures, making the rate of these changes more rapid and frequent than before. People who go through this process face levels of uncertainty and anxiety and require support. Change also increases tension between employees leading to increase in conflict within organisations.”

Our data shows that in 2018, anxiety is the leading mental health concern for these workers, affecting almost one in three (31%), followed by relationships with partners (14%) and depression (10%). However, requests for help with depression have dropped by 4% since 2013, making way for an 8% rise in stress management, which only made the list of concerns in 2015, when it accounted for 4% of referrals from this sector.

In the workplace, stress has remained a constant as the leading request for help, affecting 15% of Governmental workers. Another prevalent issue is workplace conflict which has maintained a similar level. In 2013 conflict with managers (9%) overshadowed that with colleagues (6%), however this trend has balanced, as conflict with managers and colleagues now sits at 8% each.

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Speaking Up for Women’s Workplace Wellbeing

Women are consistently more likely to seek counselling support than men, and account for three in every five people registering for counselling so far this year.

Interestingly, referrals we’ve received since 2013 show that, for the first time, in 2018 workplace bullying has taken place behind workplace conflict as the second most common issue for attending counselling. While there are a number of behaviours that people label as workplace bullying, what they all have in common is that the behaviour is repeated and is targeted at a specific individual.

The rate of alleged harassment referrals, a different but equally important issue, is much less consistent. This needs further exploration in the context of the current #MeToo movement, and given that women still represent the majority of our clients.

The Working Without Fear survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (2012)[1] revealed that while women are more likely than men to experience behaviour that is legally defined as sexual harassment, most women do not label it as harassment. This may be because subtle forms of sexual harassment, for example, suggestive jokes, intrusive personal questions, or inappropriate staring, tend to be normalised in our current culture, and women may therefore not report it, or believe it will be dismissed as ‘normal’ or an overreaction.

Companies must step in to challenge normalised harassment, which can often arise due to power imbalances or fear of retribution. Commonly, women feel safer raising the behaviour with HR rather than the perpetrator and organisations should raise awareness and educate all employees about sexual harassment and its impact on individuals. The aim is to adopt a zero tolerance towards sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviours.

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Knowing Your Options is Key to Men’s Mental Health

Around 1.5 million[1] Australian men identify as having a mental or behavioural condition, however, men still fall woefully behind women when it comes to seeking assistance for their mental wellbeing according to referrals made in the last five years.

In the first quarter of this year, men made up just one third of over 11,000 calls made to AccessEAP seeking support for mental wellbeing. Their concerns were significantly varied with anxiety (17%), relationship with partner (14%) and depression (14%) at the top of the list of their personal concerns. Meanwhile workplace stress (15%), career issues (10%), and fear of loss of job (8%), were the leading professional problems, and 12% were actively considering resigning their job.

Men’s reluctance to seek help for this range of issues could be due to a lack of awareness when it comes to counselling options. We visit hundreds of business places each year to discuss workplace mental health programs and one of the barriers we see men face is the concern that they’ll have to discuss their feelings or talk in person about their childhood.

While EAPs do offer face to face counselling support, it’s important that workplaces educate their male employees that programs can be catered for them. This could include telephone, email or video chat based assistance, with practical actionable coping strategies.

At AccessEAP we want to give men the tools to ensure their own wellbeing and remove the stigma of taking care of your mental health. You wouldn’t build a house without tools, so why build a life without them?

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We Need To Talk Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a big problem for Australians, taking over 2,800[1] lives per year and being the leading cause of death among 15-44 year olds1. Here at AccessEAP we offer ongoing support for workplaces to talk in meaningful conversations to identify and help avoid potential incidences of suicide.

Most adults spend around one third of their waking hours at work, so companies can play a pivotal role in providing key health information and intervening if an employee is struggling with mental health or if they are having suicidal thoughts.

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Meeting Eating - A Recipe for Success in Meeting Nutrition

Meetings are increasingly important in modern workplaces, accounting for up to 23[1] hours a week for senior managers, up from just 101 hours in the 1960s.

As workplaces embrace remote working and flexible hours, meetings take on greater significance, helping with communication and team bonding. Quite often there is a tendency to spend this time with food. However, the evolving nature of the modern workplace requires fine tuning.

Workplaces are complex and ‘workplace wellbeing’ encompasses a range of mental and physical health initiatives which can include nutrition. The greater importance placed on the time spent together in meetings, requires real benefit to be derived. Organisations can use this opportunity to show that they respect and value their people through healthier food options.

Often, meetings are spent with food, from carb loaded croissants to salty sandwiches. It’s a recipe for disaster says Melinda Overall, Nutritionist at Overall Nutrition and AccessEAP’s nutrition partner:

“What we eat plays a huge role in how we perform, with research[2] showing a change in diet can significantly impact alertness, memory recall and mental acuity. Ultimately, personal nutrition is up to the individual to manage, but there are lots of ways bosses can support healthy habits that can help everyone come to the table ready for success.”

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Best Practices: Manager Referral Model

When it comes to staff wellbeing and EAP, no two companies are exactly alike. While it is often considered best practice to offer a self-referral EAP, Newport & Wildman understands that some organisations prefer a Manager-Referral EAP arrangement. Due to the often highly sensitive nature of the services we deliver, it is important that a Manager-referred EAP program is clearly understood by both the referring managers and the employees seeking their guidance. The following steps will walk you through how to effectively and confidentially run a Manager-referred EAP.

1.)Determine Who Can Refer Employees to the EAP

Many organisations successfully leave this responsibility to the HR Manager or Director however, it is important to consider how visible the referring managers you choose are to your workforce. It is important that referring managers be accessible and widely known throughout your organisation. Some organisations like to engage their team managers with this responsibility as they often have a more personal relationship with employees and will more easily be available to them on short notice. Additionally, team managers are often the first to witness a change in an employee’s behaviour or performance which may lead them to proactively recommend the EAP. This method of early intervention allows an employee struggling personally or professionally to access effective support sooner.

2.) Educate Referring Managers on EAP

It is important that any manager with the responsibility of referring staff in need to the EAP be properly and formally educated on the service, the booking process, and confidentiality. While referring managers are often equipped with EAP promotional materials (i.e. brochures and wallet cards), it is very helpful and comforting for managers to be able to provide some insight to the EAP process as the employee seeking assistance may be uncomfortable or nervous about what lies ahead. This can be done by booking an Onsite EAP Awareness for Managers session to take place at your workplace or by requiring attendance to one of our monthly EAP Awareness for Managers Webinars. In these sessions we discuss the booking process, how to comfortably and confidentially refer an employee to the EAP without stigma as well as how we can support managers through a difficult referral process through the Manager Support Line.

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Tips for promoting positive mental health

As a manager, you are in a unique position to promote positive mental health at work. Given the prevalence of mental health issues, it is likely that at any given time someone in your team will either be experiencing symptoms or vulnerable to developing symptoms. A major source of stress for employees with mental health issues at work is fear of judgement, due to the stigma which still exists around mental health. Here are some tips to assist you with creating a safe and healthy environment for all of your employees:

  1. Have a Conversation: If you notice behaviour in the workplace which concerns you, initiate a private, confidential, and supportive discussion.. Create a comfortable space where they will be able to have an honest conversation.
  2. Respect Privacy: Ensure that any information an employee shares with you about mental health symptoms is not disclosed without their consent, unless there is a safety risk to the employee or someone else. It's important for the employee to decide what is said about their absence.
  3. Make a Plan: If an employee discloses that they are experiencing mental health symptoms, consider what supports they have in place, and what should be done if you are worried about them. Involve them in the plan.
  4. Make Adjustments: If someone is experiencing mental health symptoms, don’t assume that they shouldn’t be at work. Work provides purpose, meaning and a sense of achievement. Slightly adjust their tasks or working hours to help them remain at work.
  5. Use Non-judgemental Language: If someone feels judged about their mental health, this may stop them from getting help, so try and keep your language supportive and positive.
  6. Focus on Strengths: Recognise your team members for what they contribute and the strengths they bring to their role at work.so they know their productivity is valued. 
  7. Stay Calm: Occasionally you may find yourself dealing with a crisis or heightened emotion when an employee is experiencing mental health symptoms. Lower your voice, listen and stay calm.
  8. Consider Everyone: Be aware that the wellbeing of all team members can be affected if someone in the team is struggling. Make sure you are aware of the impact and offer support to everyone.
  9. Inform Yourself: Find out more about mental health symptoms. If you’re unsure about something, ask questions and consider arranging an awareness session for yourself and/or your team.
  10. Nominate an EAP Ambassador: Identify someone in your team who can have a peer-to-peer conversation with colleagues about mental health issues and encourage people to seek help.

For further guidance call our Manager Support Hotline on 1800 818 728

Sharing the Journey - are you ready? Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

The theme for mental health month this year continues to be ‘Share the Journey’. This is a very powerful message. As it calls upon us to take shared responsibility for looking after ourselves and one another. The research consistently tells us that at any given time approximately 1 in 4 people are experiencing either depression or anxiety, and over a lifetime at least half of us will have experienced a mental health episode. People who experience mental health concerns report feeling isolated. As life gets busier, and in a world that seems to move at frantic pace, it can be easy to become a passive part of the community that you belong to, and even passive in relation to your own self-care. How often do you hear yourself or someone else say that they would like to be more active in their community, or to help others or to take better care of themselves, but there simply isn’t time.

The message that I’m taking from the mental health month theme is that it is incumbent on us to take proactive steps toward looking after our own mental health and that of others around us. Every action has an effect and it is our aim here at AccessEAP to lead by example when it comes to positive mental health in the workplace and to encourage others to do the same. We have recently reviewed our Mental Health and Wellbeing policy, and one of the core themes is that of dual responsibility. We commit to providing employees with a variety of services, resources, and mechanisms, that support their mental health and we encourage our employees to take up these offerings. Each individual is responsible for participating in these activities or services, and initiating their own self-management strategies for positive mental health. We encourage everyone to take responsibility for their own self-care as everyone has individual needs. 

Different self-care strategies are effective for each person and each team, and by providing a supportive framework, people can choose the best options for them. We “walk the talk” by offering the same opportunities we offer our customers and their employees especially in education and awareness.   We take a holistic view of the factors contributing to mental health outcomes, and understand the strong links between physical health and mental health symptoms. In recognition of this, we offer and encourage options for employees to look after their physical health, e.g. flexibility in working hours to attend gym or yoga classes, fresh fruit, mindfulness activities.

At times we all need someone to provide a gentle reminder that we need to pay attention to ourselves. Self-awareness and insight are not always forthcoming when in the midst of emotional challenges or times of stress. We have Wellbeing champions within each team, to identify the needs of the team, to encourage action and to share in the journey to wellbeing with their teammates (we call them AccessEAP Ambassadors).

Please call our 24 hour line or contact your Relationship Manager if you would like to discuss strategies for managing your own mental health, or supporting your team or organisation. Perhaps ask about our AccessEAP Ambassador Program. Positive mental health is a shared responsibility; yours and ours, and you are not alone.

Mental Health Month and World Mental Health Day

This year the theme for Mental Health Month is Share the Journey.

No- it’s not déjà vu – Share the Journey was the theme for 2017 as well, but due to incredible and important feedback it was decided it should be kept this year as well.

Share the Journey means – telling your friends and family when things are a bit tough – finding others who have been through something similar – connecting with your community – finding a health professional you trust – connecting on social media – giving your pet a cuddle – organisations working together for the best possible wellbeing of everyone – sharing your stories with others – creating a sense of security within families and communities – reaching out to someone who might need your help - decreasing the isolation people feel when things aren’t great.

A huge part of the campaign this year are the "Share" postcards – there are 6 printed designs, and 2 digital only. They can be shared thoughtfully via social media, encouraging people to engage using the hashtag #sharethejourney2018 – posts from the public are eligible to win a prize each week of mental health month!

These posts can be found here:
Share A Cuppa                 Share A Stroll
Share A Hug                     Share A Task
Share A Tune                   Share A Meal
Share A Yarn
Depending on your location Mental Health awareness may be marked by a day, week or month.
Mental Health Day,10th October is also a worthwhile day to recognise within Mental Health Month. Some great resources including the Promise Wall can be found at https://1010.org.au/promise-wall/
Western Australia 7-14th October https://mhw.waamh.org.au

How to have an authentic conversation on mental health

Published in Human Resources Director on 15th September, 2018

The majority of adults spend around one third of their waking hours at work. Consequently, companies can play a pivotal role in providing key health information, according to Marcela Slepica, clinical director at AccessEAP.

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Women's Health Week

The two biggest barriers for women not maintaining a healthy lifestyle is ‘lack of time’ and ‘health not being a priority’. Women’s Health Week is the time to put ourselves first, for just one week, and start making positive changes that can last a lifetime. We know women are leading busier lives than ever before and we have a tendency to let ourselves slip low on our priority lists. However, the health of those we love starts with us. By investing more time in ourselves, we are better able to look after the ones we love and care about. Click on the image below to find out more.

R U OK? Day, the real impact - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

In September we are promoting  R U OK Day?, the suicide prevention and awareness foundation established by Gavin Larkin following his personal experience of loss to suicide. Having a conversation and encouraging those at risk to seek help is the real impact of this very special foundation.

I want to take the opportunity this September to focus on young people. As an EAP we see and support many young people. In fact 10% of our clients are aged under 25. We see young people who are employed by organisations such as food outlets and retailers, or are family members of employees. Indirect support is also provided to young people through their parents who will often seek our guidance through counselling.

The statistics regarding youth are sombre. Suicide is the second largest cause of death amongst people aged between 15 and 24 years, with motor vehicle accidents being the leading cause. Research also tells us that up to 50% of young people admit to thinking about suicide.

With the emergence of social media we have also witnessed some concerning trends in regard to youth suicide, e.g. cyber bullying leading to suicide attempts. Programs such as “13 Reasons why” appeal to youth as it draws attention to youth suicide, and whilst the storyline is controversial, it highlights the concerning trend that suicide is seen as an option for many youth who are struggling.

You may be reading this as a parent, teacher, or manager of a young person, and wondering what you can do about this. The aim of the R U OK Campaign is prevention through reaching out and connecting with each other. This is particularly relevant for our youth who may find it difficult to talk about feelings. I believe the first step is to educate ourselves about the stressors that are faced by young people, and how they cope or don’t cope.  We need to understand why youth suicide and attempts are occurring at rates not seen before in history. We need to find ways of reaching out.

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Talking to Young People

The rates of youth suicide and self-harm in Australia are concerning. Yet many adults, including managers, colleagues, teachers, and even parents, often struggle to know whether, and how, to initiate a conversation with a young person. It can often be difficult to even identify the need to have a conversation. Signs of depression in a young person may, for example, be dismissed as just part of the emotional struggles faced by all youth while they establish their independence and identity, during the transition into adulthood. A young person may also be actively concealing their struggles from others due to factors including pressure to maintain a positive image, and feeling ashamed or embarrassed. 

The clear message from the R U OK? foundation is that conversation is critical to suicide prevention, and if in doubt, we should reach out. This is not always a simple task, particularly when it comes to a young person. Concerns about intruding on a young person’s privacy, anxiety about how they will react, and fear of making things worse, are all common reasons that an important conversation may be postponed or avoided.   

We’ve put together a few tips which we hope will help you to confidently initiate a conversation with a young person.

10 TIPS for Having a Conversation:

1.    Encourage and show acceptance of different forms of non-verbal self-expression. This may include use of social and digital media, music, etc. Do your own research by trying to understand the appeal of these alternative forms. You don't need to adopt their use but through understanding their importance you may reach common ground faster.

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The inter-generational workplace

Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP recently presented a seminar on The inter-generational workplace - creating a safe and thriving culture at the Safety First Conference in Sydney. In this video recording of the event, Sally explains the issues workplaces face when, for the first time, we see up to five distinct generations in Australian workplaces. Focussing on communicatiuon styles and motivations Sally guides the listener through ways to effectively manage the challenges.

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Support for those impacted by drought

The deepening drought in New South Wales, north-west Victoria and eastern South Australia, in addition to the continuing drought in Queensland, has a far reaching impact on individuals, families and whole communities. These impacts are both physical and emotional; disrupting lives and resulting in great emotional distress. The longer the drought continues, waiting and hoping for rain slowly turns into feelings of hopelessness. Financial hardship increases and with it despair; family tensions may build along with the day to day trauma of watching livestock and crops fail seriously affecting mental health and the ability to keep functioning.

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Reflection Activity - Developing your positivity bias

Rick Hanson, a key proponent of positive psychology, says that our brain has a negativity bias to facilitate survival of the species, and we therefore have to work consciously to develop a positivity bias. By actively focusing on the positive we can gradually tune the brain to positive experience and gradually desensitise it to negative ones.

Recent research demonstrates that people who focus on the positive more consistently experience improved mood, energy, and physical wellbeing. Positive thoughts can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, by 23% according to this research.

You are invited to participate in a 2-week challenge to assist with developing your own positivity bias. An example log is provided with this month's Wellbeing Calendar to get you started with recording tasks and conversations daily that you feel proud of and pleased with.

Tips for working parents

AccessEAP offers a Supporting Working Parents Workshop specifically designed to assist participants to address the challenges and benefits of being a working parent, understand the impact of high stress levels on parenting and to identify practical strategies and skills to manage these competing roles. The workshop can be organised by contacting your Relationship Manager and is ideal for upto 15 participants.

Here are some Tips for working parents that may help working parents manage their split responsibility more effectively.

Get a Team

You don’t have to do it alone. Think creatively about who may make up your team, it may include a partner, extended family, friends in a similar boat or paid support. Establish your team and then as with all teams, be clear about your goals and roles and work together to make it feel like you’ve shard the load.

A Flexible Parent Is a Resilient Parent

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Mind the Gap - Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

Many organisations and indeed countries are doing just that: minding the gender pay gap. Iceland is well on the way while New Zealand has just announced that no gender pay gaps exist in starting salaries for the same roles in government by 2020. Energy Australia and Salesforce are two organisations that have made a stand to eliminate the gap. Despite these advances there are still some alarming, hard facts surrounding the real limitations on a woman’s financial situation.

Across all workers, from those new to paid employment to those nearing retirement, the mean superannuation account balance for men is $112,000 and just $68,000 for women1. We are told one of the reasons for this is that women tend to be primary care-givers and are therefore likely to work casually or part-time, and take extended absences from paid work. Another major reason is the gender pay gap, such that across Australia on average women are paid 15.3% less than men each week2.

Annual surveys conducted since 20133 inform us that the top issue consistently impacting on the wellbeing of Australians is financial stress. Women are far more likely than men to be experiencing financial stress. With 55% of women under 35 finding dealing with money stressful and overwhelming4.

It makes smart business sense to implement initiatives which address these challenges, particularly as 46.9% of employees in Australia are women5. If for no other reason, the bottom line of your organisation is very likely to be impacted by the financial circumstances of your employees. When workers, both male and female, are experiencing chronic financial stress, this will have a significant effect on productivity.

More and more unconscious bias is being recognised and women are actively encouraged to participate in jobs, and at levels, that have previously been male dominated. Further examples of incentives taken by organisations to allow women to participate in the workforce on an equal footing include; transparent and consistent recruitment and remuneration; flexible work arrangements; paid parental leave and access to educational seminars on financial topics.

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Burnout in midwifery an occupational hazard

Published in HealthTimes Magazine on 20th July, 2018

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director, AccessEAP, a leading employee assistance provider, says the unique challenges that affect the mental wellbeing of health professionals includes exposure to trauma, threats of aggression and violence, shiftwork, dealing with grief and loss, allegations and complaints, compassion fatigue and mental health stigma.

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AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away


AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away.