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Organisations urged to prepare for the impact of SSM postal survey

Photo: Organisations urged to prepare for the impact of SSM postal survey
As Mental Health professionals gear up for the expected consequences of the impending same sex marriage postal survey, organisations are being urged to prepare for its potential impact on company culture and employee interaction.

“Regardless of the outcome of the postal survey, there will be a period up until the vote itself, and likely extending beyond that, where we see increased instances of hate language, discrimination, and harassment,” said psychologist and State Manager (NSW/ACT) of Assure Programs, Greg Prescott.

“So far this has only been seen at local levels, but as the survey date gets closer, it is anticipated the frequency and scale will increase.

“The result of this from a mental health perspective is a likely increase in stress and anxiety within members of the LGBTQI+ community,” said Mr Prescott.
While debate within the media and the community in the leadup to the vote is already having an impact, the result of the survey, should it go ahead, is expected to exacerbate the problem, ramping up tensions as both sides push for a parliamentary vote.

“And even subsequent to the vote - regardless of the outcome - there are going to be groups of people profoundly unhappy with the result.

“There will be a wide range of changes in feelings for people, a lot of which we have already seen.

“Anger and outrage are already prevalent on both sides of the argument, with increases in stress and anxiety also to be expected.

“Because this is a non-binding survey, even after the result is tallied these reactions are unlikely to subside until a parliamentary vote is put forward, so we may well be in for months of heightened emotional volatility and stress.”

While mental health professionals are preparing for an increase in stress and anxiety related to arguments both for and against same sex marriage, the result of the vote has the potential to increase cases of depression as well.

“Harassment and other effects, such as bullying, could also increase the suicide risk of some people, so it’s important that mental health professionals take this into consideration when screening for risk,” said Mr Prescott.

Because the postal survey is non-binding, the outcome is expected to increase tensions, rather than ease them, as people on both sides of the argument push for a legislative change.

As a result of the potential backlash, organisations are being urged to prepare for possible consequences such as harassment or conflict within the workplace and increases in anxiety and anger on employees.

“If the conflict is not proactively managed there could be a significant impact on workplace culture as well as harmony within teams,” said Mr Prescott.

“The possibility of increases in the stress, anxiety or anger levels of employees can result in increased sick leave, decreased productivity, and increased emotional volatility.”

Prescott suggests businesses consider their position on SSM is, and whether they wish to communicate that position to employees.

“Regardless of a business's position, or lack thereof, it’s important to remind staff of the usual expectations of employee behaviour.

“Referencing policy or corporate behaviours if necessary, to reinforce tolerance, respect, courtesy of staff regardless of their position, and reminding them of the internal and external support available.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.