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Kim Elkovich. Kim Elkovich.
21 July 2018 Posted by 

Kim's on a mission to develop healthy workplaces

TERRY COLLINS
TACKLING the stigma of mental health in the workplace is no easy task, but Kim Elkovich is just the woman for the job.


With a background in nursing, pharmaceuticals and business, a Master’s degree in counselling and currently studying for a PhD, Ms Elkovich launched her company, A Higher Self, in 2006.
 
She is on a mission to help employers provide workplaces and practices conducive to looking after the mental health of employees.
 
“There is a strong emphasis through Occupational Health and Safety on providing a physically safe workplace, but it is just as important to provide an environment which is psychologically safe,” she said.
 
“There is still a misconception that mental health illness isn’t a ‘real’ sickness, and we need to squash those belief systems.
 
“Stress and mental health are the largest causes for absenteeism in the Australian workplace today – much more so than physical illness.
 
“Part of the battle is convincing employers that there is a need to provide a mentally safe workplace and we need to break down the stigma.
 
“Many people are afraid to admit they are struggling mentally in the workplace for fear of discrimination but we need to address stress, depression and anxiety and other mental health issues early, so they don’t escalate.”
 
Ms Elkovich said mental health was more important than ever before for our workforce, with restructures, bullying and even advances in technology adding to stress levels and creating a pathway to severe mental health issues.
 
Through A Higher Self, she conducts workshops and works with management and HR teams to create a culture of support for mental health.
 
“It’s really important to get the people at the top on board so the support systems are put in place,” she said.
 
“I encourage as many people as possible to attain their mental health first aid certificate and help them along that path.”
 
After qualifying as a registered nurse, Ms Elkovich worked for 15 years in pharmaceuticals, working her up to top management level.
 
But the effect of growing up with a father who was in a highly stressful job and who was offered little support in the workplace was never far from her mind and eventually she branched out to study psychology.
 
“Dad was in a management position at a coal preparation plant and not only did the job take him away from the family a great deal, but he would bring those stresses home with him,” she said.
 
“People are fond of saying you should leave personal issues at home and work issues at work, but it’s not that simple.
“We need to look after the entire person.”
 
Ms Elkovich has worked extensively with managers, teachers and HR personnel to help establish a culture of understanding and nurture in the workplace.
 
She has been teaching mental health at Newcastle University for the past eight years.
 
“Stresses in the workplace are only going to get worse as advances in technology, robotics and artificial intelligence cause increasing numbers of people to re-evaluate their careers and even re-examine their moral and ethical beliefs,” she said.
 
“This rise in technology will also affect unemployment levels and we really need to help people into new career paths to keep them employed. Mental health issues are often exacerbated by unemployment.”
 
Although based on the Central Coast, Ms Elkovich works mainly in the greater Sydney area.
 
To find out how your business can be proactive in creating a psychologically healthy workplace, call 43992435 or visit
 

 



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