AlertForce has praised Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin’s decision to publicly disclose his mental health condition as an “important step forward” in recognising depression and anxiety in the workplace.

On September 8, The Swans released a statement confirming Franklin suffered from a mental health condition.

It said Franklin had been ruled out of Saturday’s qualifying final against Fremantle to take time away from the club to address his condition.

AlertForce chief executive officer Brendan Torazzi said Franklin’s stand in publicly acknowledging his condition would go a long way to encouraging others to seek help

Mr Torazzi said many workplaces now recognised the importance of early identification and treatment of depression in workers by offering support programs.

“Lance Franklin’s stand will encourage others to follow suit; we fully support his decision.”

Sydney Swans has previously worked with Beyond Blue on programs to promote acceptance and treatment of depression. In August 2015 it was the chosen charity for the Hawthorn clash at ANZ.

Franklin’s decision to go public comes at the same time as the release of a Beyond Blue training program targeting depression in the workplace.

The Mental Health in the Workplace program was successfully piloted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) last month. It aims to help delegates reach out to workers who may be experiencing depression or anxiety.

The program includes a 90-minute session that teaches union delegates how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a mental health condition, the relationship between the workplace and mental health – and what to do if they are concerned about one of their members.

Beyond Blue developed the free program to address issues originally raised by the CFMEU’s fellow union Australian Workers Union (AWU), such as lack of awareness of depression and anxiety, and stigma. Delegates were often confused about how to approach a worker, what their role should be in providing support, and how they could support them.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the free resource, designed to fit into the existing training that unions already provide for delegates, provide delegates with the additional skill and confidence to have conversations about mental health with frontline workers.
“The toolbox kit is an easy way to equip delegates with the skills to improve workplace mental health at a grass roots level,” she said.

CFMEU forest products spokesperson Alex Millar said the program had been well received by delegates and would be included in training programs where appropriate.
Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures suggest mental health conditions are common among working-age Australians, with 45 per cent of Australians aged between 16-85 years experiencing a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.

However, a survey by Beyond Blue partner Heads Up reveals workplaces are not meeting their expectations when it comes to support programs. Only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy compared to 76% for physical safety.

Only five in ten (56%) believe their most senior leader values mental health.
The survey found employees who believe their workplace is mentally unhealthy are unlikely to disclose they are experiencing a mental health condition, seek support from HR/management, or offer support to a colleague with a mental health condition.

Heads Up said the workplace was a relevant and an appropriate setting to promote and support the health and mental health of workers for several reasons, including:
• ease of access to a large number of people
• existing infrastructures (eg, communication channels, supportive environment)
• opportunity to tailor interventions to support the needs of specific groups of employees (eg, shift workers) and within particular industries
• cost-efficiency relative to clinical or community-based

The Swans, meantime, have thrown their full support behind Franklin. General manager of football Tom Harley said the club was doing everything possible to support him. “The timeframe on his return is unclear at this stage. We will continue to monitor his condition.”

Anyone seeking counselling or help with mental health issues can contact www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 224 636. The Heads Up resources are available at: www.headsup.org.au/toolboxtalkunions
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AlertForce offers a range of work health and training (WHS) courses for industry. For more details go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/