Training managers can improve workers' mental health

October 11, 2017

Basic mental health training for managers can reap significant benefits for workers' mental wellbeing, a world-first study published today in the prestigious The Lancet Psychiatry suggests.

Led by researchers at the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney, the randomised controlled trial considered the effects of a four-hour mental program delivered to managers from Fire & Rescue NSW.

In addition to large reductions in work-related sickness absence, the training was also associated with a return on investment of $9.98 for each dollar spent on training.

This is the first study to show that training managers about mental health can have a direct effect in improving occupational outcomes for employees. It is also the first time that a dollar figure on the value of manager mental health training has been able to be calculated.

"Workplaces and managers should be part of the solution to ," said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey, who leads the Workplace Mental Health Research Program at the Black Dog Institute.

"One of the key problems of mental illness is the impact it can have on people's careers, but this doesn't have to be the case.

"Having a supportive manager can make a huge difference to a person's mental wellbeing, and as this study shows, giving basic mental health training to managers can bring significant changes to both confidence and behaviour among staff."

The trial randomly assigned 88 managers responsible for close to 4000 staff into either an intervention group - who received the RESPECT mental health training program - or a control group. Managers were then reassessed six months later along with their employees, with researchers measuring for changes in work-related sickness absence.

At follow-up, work-related sick leave decreased by 18 percent amongst those whose manager received the RESPECT training. This equated to a reduction of 6.45 hours per over six-months.

During the same period, the control group who did not receive basic manager mental health training saw an increase in work-related sickness absence of 10 percent.

"Managers are in a unique position to help employees with their mental health, yet many can feel reluctant to raise concerns without formal training," said Associate Professor Harvey.

"With a large proportion of employees now working longer and more flexibly than in previous generations, these results are a promising sign that managers can take a more active role in assisting their employees to lead mentally healthier lives.

"These findings are particularly relevant for frontline emergency services workers, who face unique stressors throughout their daily duties that can potentially worsen or directly cause mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder," said Associate Professor Harvey.

"Future studies are needed to confirm these findings and to examine whether these changes in behaviour are applicable in other work settings."

Explore further: Workplace wellbeing needs holistic approach

More information: The Lancet Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30372-3 , http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(17)30372-3/fulltext?elsca1=tlxpr

Related Stories

Workplace wellbeing needs holistic approach

October 10, 2017
Experts from the University of Warwick have contributed to new guidance on promoting positive mental health at work.

Report advocates improved police training

August 29, 2014
A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

Would you tell your manager you had a mental health problem?

January 26, 2015
Although nearly four in 10 workers wouldn't tell their manager if they had a mental health problem, half said that if they knew about a coworker's illness, they would desire to help, a new survey by the Centre for Addiction ...

Health insurance changes, access to care by patients' mental health status

September 6, 2017
A research letter published by JAMA Psychiatry examined access to care before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and after the ACA for patients grouped by mental health status using a scale to assess mental ...

Mental health 'first aid' for teachers focus of new study

April 26, 2016
Researchers from the University of Bristol have begun a trial to find out how well a training and support package for teachers works in recognising and combatting mental health problems.

Hidden workforce of mental health carers saves Australia $13.2b

March 23, 2017
Carers supporting Australians with mental illness are providing services that would cost governments $13.2 billion to replace, a new report has found.

Recommended for you

Study provides hope that schizophrenia isn't as deep-rooted in affected individuals as previously believed

December 8, 2017
A schizophrenia patient's own perceptions of their experiences—and confidence in their judgments—may be factors that can help them overcome challenges to get the life they wish, suggests a new paper published in Clinical ...

The evolutionary advantage of the teenage brain

December 7, 2017
The mood swings, the fiery emotions, the delusions of immortality, all the things that make a teenager a teenager might just seem like a phase we all have to put up with. However, research increasingly shows that the behaviors ...

Study reveals gap in life expectancy for people with mental illness

December 7, 2017
New research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that men who are diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime can expect to live 10.2 years less than those who aren't, and women 7.3 years.

Reading on electronic devices may interfere with science reading comprehension

December 6, 2017
People who often read on electronic devices may have a difficult time understanding scientific concepts, according to a team of researchers. They suggest that this finding, among others in the study, could also offer insights ...

Study suggests giving kids too many toys stifles their creativity

December 6, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers at the University of Toledo in the U.S. has found that children are more creative when they have fewer toys to play with at one time. In their paper published in the journal Infant ...

Psychosis incidence highly variable internationally

December 6, 2017
Rates of psychosis can be close to eight times higher in some regions compared to others, finds a new study led by researchers at UCL, King's College London and the University of Cambridge.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.