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RUOK? A Q&A with Kate Taylor and Paris Matin

We sat down with Kate Taylor, RCSA member, TaylorCare Group Founder and RUOK Day ambassador, and Paris Matin, General Manager – Healthcare and Community Services at Next In Health, to discuss RUOK? Day and some of the mental health strategies that recruitment professionals can implement in their work and daily lives.

Starting with you, Kate, how has your career and efforts advocating for social justice causes and recruiting within numerous industries moulded your understanding of mental health in the workplace?

I’ve worked in community services recruitment for 11 years and have been running TaylorCare Group as Managing Director/Founder for eight years. I’ve also been an RUOK? Community Ambassador since 2017 and I volunteer my time to speak to corporates, NGO’s small businesses and Government departments across Australia and New Zealand.

I often speak about my lived experiences with mental health and a suicide attempt as a teenager, and how that allows me to be relatable to the youth and parents who listen to my story.

The reality is, 78% of people have said their mental health has been impacted since the COVID outbreak and, in this year alone, three in five have said their productivity has been impacted at work due to mental health.

My mission is to spread awareness to those struggling that mental health can impact us all at different times in our lives and we should talk about it with those around us so we can support each other in the workplace.

Workplaces cannot afford to ignore mental health. With a cost to the Australian economy estimated at $60 billion per year, $12.8 billion is associated with workplace mental ill-health.

Paris, why is it important to ensure RUOK? conversations are occurring in the workplace?

I believe conversations around mental health and asking important questions like RUOK? in the workplace need to be normalised and promoted by employers within the workplace.

With increased demands and pressure, many people struggle with their mental health. Time and time again we see many positive examples of how a five-minute conversation can change someone’s life.

Beginning that conversation with asking how that person is feeling can make a real difference.

With the growing awareness of mental health, why is it still important to ask colleagues or stakeholders RUOK?

It is very easy for some people to hide their mental health struggles. Someone may seem happy and fine on the outside, but this might be a shield from the pain and hurt going on inside.

By normalising the questions around mental health in the workplace, we can help break any stigmas behind being embarrassed or concerned about speaking up. We all need to promote a non-judgmental discourse about this issue.

Back to you, Kate, what is the best approach to help end the stigma around talking about mental health issues? Do you think having RUOK conversations can aid in achieving this?

I think, as employers, we need to be more open to dealing with mental health issues in the workplace by having important, open discussions with teams about the topic and our company’s views on it.

Offering a well-being day off when mental health is affecting team members at work and encouraging them to seek a professional session through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a mental health plan from a GP is critical in preventing situations from escalating.

If someone wants to initiate an RUOK conversation, what’s the best approach? Alternatively, if someone wants to ask for help and have a conversation surrounding their mental health, what’s the best approach?

A key message we want people to take away from RUOK? Day is to understand that we all have a role to play in supporting those around us impacted by mental health.

We don’t need to all be professionals to offer support, but unfortunately, most do not feel confident with what to say if someone admits to not being ok.

People do not see how they can help or are worried they will say the wrong thing and make the situation worse.

That is why the RUOK? Program suggests four steps to having a conversation with someone struggling with life.

The steps are:

  1. ask

  2. listen

  3. encourage action

  4. follow up.

For more information on the four steps as well as ways to prepare yourself for an RUOK conversation click here.

How could the recent lockdowns and subsequent changes in working conditions impact people’s mental health? Do you believe this is another reason to further encourage workers to ask people around them RUOK?

Lifeline have recently experienced a record number of calls, receiving over 3,245 calls on August 4th. This shows the importance of people having a number to call for help. The good news is suicide rates have not increased compared to the pre-pandemic world.

Having a conversation with a professional on the phone can be life changing and people are more open to reaching out for help rather than taking a drastic action to end their life.

Those who have been in lockdown for extended periods are feeling pandemic fatigue, so it is important we check in with those around us more than ever as we navigate this new COVID normal world.

People can find more information on the RUOK website. If someone is struggling with life and wants to reach out for support, but feels like no one is around to help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 anytime or the Coronavirus Mental Health Wellbeing Support Service - 1800 512 348.

To view a recording of RCSA’s recent RUOK webinar with Kate and Paris click here.

Kate Taylor is a passionate businesswoman with significant experience within the recruitment industry, telehealth, and corporate health and wellbeing. Paris Matin has extensive experience recruiting across Nursing and Midwifery, Aged Care, Doctors / Medical Imaging, Allied Health, Dental and Community Care.

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