The Principal at Stake

In 2014, Dr Mark Thompson, a school principal for the Victorian public school system sadly took his own life. He was experiencing high levels of stress, burnout and abuse.

It is heartbreaking to think that something like this could happen, and perhaps we may see Adventist Education as being immune to this. But should we be complacent? Research shows that 1 in 5 Australian employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition, and that school Principals are five times more likely to be threatened whilst at work.

Workplaces can play a key role in protecting the mental health of its people by:

  • offering flexibility and adjusting workloads or hours,
  • providing emotional and intellectual support,
  • providing access to resources and training that help them do their jobs effectively,
  • creating an environment where people feel comfortable raising their concerns and reaching out when they need it,
  • Instigating ‘zero tolerance’ policies regarding bullying, harassment and offensive behaviour, and
  • Offering resilience training.

Psychological Hazards: A Complex Work Risk

The World Health Organisation describes mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Mental health is not a fixed or static state of being, as the website explains, “The fact that someone is not experiencing a mental health condition doesn’t necessarily mean their mental health is flourishing. Likewise, it’s possible to be diagnosed with a mental health condition while feeling well in many aspects of life.”

There is a wealth of information and resources available through SafeWork Australia and WorkSafe New Zealand and the sheer quantity of information can seem overwhelming, but a really great place to start is which explains all the issues in plain and easy-to-understand language. If you want to make a difference today, take a minute to consider how you would answer the following questions within your own organisation:

  1. Does management give a clear message that their “doors are always open” to staff members who are struggling?
  2. Does management offer flexibility and patience when a colleague or staff member is showing signs of stress and burnout?
  3. Do you feel that management recognizes the complex nature of mental health conditions?
  4. Would management – at any level – be willing to implement actions that reduce or control the risks to stress and mental health, and offer support to staff?

We don’t have the answers, but we are willing to listen and ready to help, so if you want to talk more about how we can help support mental health in your workplace please get in touch. It may be possible to request Risk Funding in support of any tailored mental health support program that your organization might be planning or considering in the future.

Finally, RMS would like to affirm our school principals, educators and teachers for the incredible commitment they make everyday to molding and educating our children and young people.

Supporting Resources:

Preventing Psychological Injury Under Work Health and Safety Laws – SafeWork Australia (Link to PDF) (Link to website)