Stressful work conditions play a big role in mental health, some workplaces, such as policing, have been found to be particularly stressful. Researchers responded to this by working with Victoria Police to develop a mental health intervention for this workplace.
The objective of the intervention was to reduce workplace stress and improve mental health conditions for the police workers. There have been many attempts to reduce the stress of police work, but this project was unique as it planned to take an integrated approach to the issue.
The intervention also aimed to educate Victoria Police staff about mental health literacy—their knowledge, beliefs, and skills around mental health, as well as their ability to recognise, manage and prevent mental illness.
An interim report was published in 2014, detailing the team's work in developing the proposed mental health integrated intervention.
Among other issues, the report identifies that:
- there is still a significant stigma around mental health in a policing context
- junior members in particular do not possess adequate mental health literacy
- most skills associated with mental health were learned by members through life experience rather than formal training
All of these issues indicate the crucial need for an integrated intervention addressing mental health literacy in this workplace.
In the same year, the team also published a journal article summarising the advantages of an integrated intervention in the context of mental illness prevention.
The integrated workplace mental health intervention was trialled with Victoria Police, with support from the National Health and Medical Research Council. The intervention focussed primarily on improving supportive leadership practices of station leaders, with the aim of flowing on to perceptions of improved working conditions among both troops and leaders in intervention stations compared to controls. Mental health literacy training was also offered at intervention stations. In practice, intervention activities were only partially implemented due to a number of implementation barriers and challenges, which likely contributed to the finding of no improvement in the outcomes measured in intervention versus control stations.
The majority of participants in the Leadership Development and Coaching Program found it useful and beneficial, and some of the initially sceptical leaders spoke positively about the program.
The ISCRR the Evidence Review Hub team separately reviewed 90 existing job stress interventions in Australia, with some interesting findings.