OBE Organic is Australia’s first organic beef exporter. Formed in the mid-1990s by a group of visionary cattle farmers, the group had the foresight to recognise the unique value they held in running family owned cattle properties untouched by intensive agriculture and harmful chemicals. They export certified organic beef all over the world with their largest export market being the US, followed by Asia and the Middle East.
OBE Organic introduced Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for team members in March 2019, and they currently have 50% of their workforce accredited as ‘Mental Health First Aiders’. Earlier this year they achieved Gold MHFA Skilled Workplace status.
Life before Mental Health First Aid
Mental illness is still a taboo subject in agriculture. At OBE Organic, many staff kept their personal lives private, working to the cultural belief that you leave your home life at the door. OBE Organic’s leadership wanted to change that narrative.
Their goal was to destigmatize mental illness in both their business and their industry and focus on early intervention. They wanted their staff to have the capacity to recognise the signs of mental health problems in co-workers and stakeholders and to have the skills and confidence to support them in a genuine, direct and safe way. The OBE Organic team thought that MHFA training would help them achieve their goals.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace requires planning and commitment
OBE Organic engaged a consultant to help them work through their options for creating a mentally healthy workplace. They established a Mental Health Committee to provide a more deliberate focus on increasing mental health awareness, reducing stigma and creating a supportive workplace environment.
Gaining leadership support was important to the program’s success. Managing Director, Dalene Wray, led the initiative by clearly communicating to staff the need for creating a mentally healthy workplace. MHFA training was subsequently offered to all employees no matter their role in the organisation. To capture the wide range of mental health learnings, OBE Organic prioritised formal reporting of professional development. This has enabled them to accurately report on the number of hours each team member has devoted to mental health awareness and training.
A MHFA Training – preparation for unforeseen difficult times like COVID-19
OBE Organic was accredited as a Gold Skilled Workplace just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their commitment to becoming an accredited workplace, has helped them during the pandemic. Dalene said, “As a leadership team, we feel that our focus on mental health training and awareness, prior to COVID-19, has borne fruit during the crisis.”
Life since implementing MHFA Training
The OBE Organic team were surprised by the tangible and intangible benefits that MHFA training brought to their workplace. Since the implementation of training, there has been a noticeable difference in their workplace culture: staff are more open and honest in their conversations, are actively supporting one another and have been instilled with the confidence that they can assist one another in a mental health crisis.
The leadership team values employee well-being and the staff strive to be their best selves. This shift made a substantial difference to everyday workplace interactions, and staff morale has improved through working in a more supportive environment. Situations that do arise are managed using an approach that promotes workplace positivity.
From the workplace to the community
OBE Organic’s commitment to promote positive mental health in their industry is evident through the open dialogue they maintain with stakeholders across various broadcast mediums. In the past twelve months, they have posted about mental health on social media, mentioned mental health during events, discussed mental health on podcasts, in workshops, and at their annual planning days.
Social media is used to promote free mental health resources and tools. OBE Organic has taken the opportunity to share their experiences with regards to workplace wellbeing during Mental Health Week, World Mental Health Day, National Agriculture Day and R U OK? Day.
Practical examples of OBE Organic’s commitment to raising awareness has included:
- Partnering with other brands to support positive mental health.
- Staff and Board of Directors wearing their Trademutt “This is a conversation starter’ shirts.
- Weekly staff meetings include an agenda item called “People and Culture” where staff are encouraged to share their experiences and learnings.
- Staff are encouraged to sign up to weekly newsletters from mental health organisations.
- Staff are encouraged to share relevant content on internal messaging platforms like Whatsapp.
If you are interested in starting your own mental health program within your business, take the first steps today.
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