R U OK? Day is 8 September, and the message this year is “Ask R U OK? No qualifications needed” — intended as a reminder to all Australians that they already have what it takes to support their family, friends and colleagues.
Commonwealth Bank’s Chief Mental Health Officer, Dr Laura Kirby, says we all have the capacity to make a difference by simply listening and making space and time for people.
“Peer-to-peer support conversations can make a strong impact. They can be the difference between someone seeking more help and support, or not,” Dr Kirby said.
“[Those conversations play] a pivotal role, not just in linking to professional help, but also in creating an environment in which people can feel listened to and heard and feel supported, which then encourages people to take action.”
When asked how employees at CBA should approach a conversation on R U OK? Day, Dr Kirby stresses that it does not need to be complicated.
“I don’t think anyone needs to overthink it. There is an excellent framework to work with in terms of: recognise, respond, and refer,” Dr Kirby said.
“‘Refer’ is an important one because it gives us permission not to have the answers or be the professional. In fact, that is not our role at all,” she explained. “But the ability to recognise that someone could benefit from that conversation, and to respond by giving them space and time to listen. They are the powerful things that we all can absolutely do.”
The role of CBA’s Chief Mental Health Officer is to improve and enhance the group’s approach to workplace mental health so that employees have a positive experience at work and are enabled to thrive in a workplace.
While mental health and supporting a psychosocially safe workplace is a year-round priority at CBA, Dr Kirby believes R U OK? Day is an important reminder for employees of one way we can all support mental health at work.
“CBA has resources available, all the time, for employees and their families. The bank’s mental health strategy fosters a supportive, open and approachable environment where people feel comfortable to discuss mental health and to facilitate conversations to improve factors in our work environment that contribute to our experience of mental health.
“If we’ve got those trusted relationships with our peers, with family members, with our leaders, [we have] the ability to say, ‘I’m struggling at the moment and I would like to talk about it, or I need some help’,” she said.
“That courageous conversation can make a huge difference and can prompt some powerful conversations in terms of getting support, and taking actions that contribute to moving back up to the top of the mental health continuum.
“It’s what we do on a daily basis and how we provide that environment of support that makes the real difference. Every day is R U OK? Day.”