With every 1% increase in unemployment there is an alarming rise in “unhappiness”

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In a recent media release published by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, alarming statistics which emerged from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has sparked action by State Government to focus on incorporating wellbeing strategies into workforce development planning.

“In order to be able to meet the challenges that face our State, we need to build resilience within our schools, organisations and communities.  We want South Australia (SA) to become the State of Wellbeing, ” Mr Weatherill said.

With a recent delegation visiting from Bhutan there was an opportunity to exchange ideas on Gross National Happiness with South Australian Parliamentary Secretary to The Premier, Katrine Hildyard, MP and Janet O’Hehir from SAHMRI.

Mr Raymond Spencer, Chair of SAHMRI and the Economic Development Board, said evidence shows that an increase in unemployment of 1 per cent can lead to an increase in suicide of 0.7 per cent.

“As South Australia adjusts to the loss of the auto-industry, we are determined to build resilience in our population,” Mr Spencer said.

“The resilience skills not only protect against mental illness, but also build individuals’ capacity to innovate, enter new employment and succeed in a dynamic economic environment.”

The SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, only recently launched, aims to activate the SA Wellbeing Strategy to tackle such issues outlined by Mr Spencer.

According to a state report prepared by pioneering psychologist, Dr Martin Seligman, who is working closely with the centre and a sample of South Australian high schools, wellbeing is a construct with five measurable and teachable elements, otherwise known as PERMA.

P – Positive Emotion

People tend to subjectively measure their overall contentedness and happiness in life based on the current mood they are in.  Developing more positive emotion and tackling inhibitors towards achieving positive emotion is a strategy being put forward as a part of the wellbeing strategy.

E – Engagement

Engagement refers to the act of immersing one’s self in the present moment.  Also known as a state of ‘flow’ – something studied in depth by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it involves cultivating and identifying people’s individual personal strengths, virtues and talents.

R – Relationships

Developing positive relationships is fundamental to overall wellbeing.  Without a strong support network or good influences in an individual’s life, the person is susceptible to isolation and feelings of loneliness and self-loathing.  Reciprocal relationships are encouraged, which involves sharing and listening with friends and communicating regularly with people.

M – Meaning

Meaning suggests a person is their best self when they are dedicating themselves to something greater than them on an individual basis – such as a cause, religion or project.  If a person has a sound understanding of their own values and core beliefs, it can help in overall happiness and wellbeing levels.  Relationships can also be formed through finding like-minded people who have similar core beliefs and values.

A – Accomplishment

Setting goals and striving towards ambition can contribute to a greater sense of meaning.  A feeling of accomplishment and achievement can improve people’s overall wellbeing.  This is done through setting tangible and realistic goals, and celebrating the wins when the goal is met.

Through integrating the PERMA strategy to workplaces, communities and organisations, the state wellbeing plan is looking to improve unemployment rates and lower the accompanying suicide rate.  The outcome of PERMA aims to increase the mental wellbeing and resilience levels of all South Australians.

If you would like to know more about workforce development strategies related to workforce wellbeing and how it could be beneficial to improving outcomes in your workplace, contact Wendy at wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

May 2015

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