COVID-19 FAST TRACKING DESTIGMATISATION OF MENTAL HEALTH IN AUTOMOTIVE

Increasing usage of mental health services indicates people are increasingly likely to seek help

While many understand the impact the workplace can have on people’s mental health, and conversely, how mental health illnesses can impact productivity and relationships at work, many business managers and team leaders don’t have the tools, strategies and confidence to best manage mental health issues and create a mentally healthy workplace.
As part of the AAAA’s commitment to mental health support for the automotive aftermarket industry, the peak body for automotive businesses recently arranged a special presentation from Beyond Blue, with contribution from GPC Asia Pacific and Bapcor representatives.
The webinar not only provided insights and advice but also unveiled signs the pandemic is helping to break down barriers around mental illnesses in the automotive industry and across society.
Facilitated by AAAA Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Charity, this member-exclusive webinar featured three stand-out speakers on mental health in the workplace: Beyond Blue Workplace Engagement Manager, Michael O’Hanlon; GPC Asia Pacific People and Culture Executive General Manager, Aileen Hayes; and Bapcor Executive General Manager for Human Resources, Alison Laing.
“Changes in how society, workplaces and individuals view and deal with mental health issues is going to be a continual process over many years, but we are encouraged by the changes we are seeing,” Stuart said.
“This webinar was full of fantastic, thought provoking ideas and strategies for our members who took part to learn and develop themselves.
“The insights from Michael, Alison and Aileen were relatable and clear and I thank them for their contributions. As the leader of the AAAA team, there were learnings I have taken away that can assist our team as we live through these challenging times.”
From Beyond Blue, Michael shared that the organisation had seen a significant increase this year in the number of helpline calls and visits to website resources – including its Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. Beyond Blue has responded to a 30 to 40 percent increase in demand – which peaked at 60 percent in May – for their counselling service and other mental health support organisations have also seen similar trends.
Although these increases certainly underscore the challenging times we are facing, they also indicate that people are increasingly likely to seek help, which is a big change from previous years and catastrophic events.  
It appears that COVID-19 is serving to fast-track a significant increase in awareness, understanding and normalisation of mental health illness.
Michael also emphasised that for small business owners and managers, getting to know employees is more important than ever. Even small inroads in this domain can make a profound difference for employees and break down barriers that can more easily enable conversations around mental health.
Alison and Aileen agreed with this recommendation, stating that a key to successfully supporting team members with mental health is to ‘get to know your people’.

The closer working relationships seen in smaller business settings allow managers to identify changes in behaviour and demeanour and perhaps more easily enable them to ask, ‘are you ok?’ This can lead to a supportive conversation that can help resolve issues or the employee can be guided toward professional help services.
Both HR experts shared that you don’t need to be a mental health expert or psychologist to provide support that is helpful and relevant. Providing contact details for Beyond Blue or other organisations such as LifeLine and The Black Dog Institute allows you to refer your staff member to an expert quickly and easily.
Aileen advocated that all businesses should visit Beyond Blue’s website.
“Businesses of any size can benefit from the fantastic free resources provided by Beyond Blue,” Aileen said.
Such resources help business owners and managers to carefully step through conversations that they may be nervous about with some confidence and peace of mind.
Alison and Aileen shared that they have seen increased anxiety across their organisations because of uncertainty about the future, corresponding with an increased usage of their respective employee assistance program hotlines. While everyone is impacted by the pandemic, everyone’s experience of it is different.
“Across society, and depending on businesses, roles and locations, people seem to be overwhelmed. Some are working harder than ever before while others have no work,” Alison said.
“We will continue to promote mental health across the industry through our communication channels, member services such as webinars and our Employer Assist hotline. The importance of this issue can’t be underestimated,” Stuart said.
This AAAA mental health member webinar forms a small part of the Associations’ support to members and the aftermarket industry throughout these challenging times.
The Association offers a dedicated COVID-19 resource centre, Employer Assist and Legal hotlines, and powerful business management and growth tools. Members also have access to the AAAA’s Advocacy team for regulatory issues affecting their businesses, and the AAAA continues to fight for the industry by championing mandatory data sharing.
Members looking to access Mental Health resources are encouraged to contact:
• Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 www.beyondblue.org.au
• LifeLine – 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
• The Black Dog Institute www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

For more from the AAAA, visit www.aaaa.com.au