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Life on the Serengeti (Elephant Training)

Filed in: training


The underpinning principle of the program is that each and every worker has a duty of care for the safety of their colleagues. The training contributes to increasing the awareness and understanding of co-occurring alcohol, other drug and mental health issues.  With greater appreciation for others in the workplace this training will support the building of safer work places, develop more capable and confident collegial support. We all have a role in building successful and safer workspaces.

The Process

Workplaces interested in implementing this training can simply give us a call or send us an email. Our team will talk with you about what the program entails and next steps.

Program Aims

  • To increase awareness of the impact of mental health and drugs and alcohol in/on the workplace.
  • To encourage workplace safety and assist in forging safer and healthier workplaces for all workers.

Program Outcomes

  • An increased awareness of co-occurring alcohol, other drugs and mental health issues.
  • An increased knowledge of the impact of mental health, alcohol and other drugs on and in the work place.
  • An increased awareness and understanding regarding prescription drugs, over the counter medications, poly drug use and the impact on health and wellbeing.
  • Find potential champions in the work place that will identify as “Blue Elephants” and support others in the work place who may be struggling. Thereby decrease isolation by being able to source support without risk
  • An organisational specific outcome: i.e. greater knowledge and understanding of your organization’s drug policy.

Elephant Training

Elephant training is about the “Elephant in the room” that goes noticed, but not addressed, in many workplaces. It aims to capture attendees interest through the program title, but not generate the stigmatization, and hence resistance, often eventuated through direct program titling such as “drugs and the work place” or “Drug safety and you”. The program also includes mental health issues, as both have significant impacts on the workplace, and both are often co-occurring.
The underpinning principle of the program is about each and every worker being responsible for the safety of their colleagues, and the understanding that we all can be part of building successful and safer workspaces.

Blue Elephant Training

This is sequential training to up-skill identified champions in the work place.

This part of the program would be tailored to suit the skill levels and needs of the identified workplace Blue Elephants. This training would focus on basic motivational interviewing skills, brief intervention skills, sign posting and referral pathways.

It is anticipated that were possible blue elephant participants would gather at a central point and train with other blue elephants from different workplaces, over the course of at least half a day depending on numbers and up-skill requirements.


Mental health and drug and alcohol related Workers Compensation claims equate to 10 billion dollars a year in lost revenue.

A survey of 5000 workers indicated that 25% took time off each year for stress and drug and alcohol related issues.

Australian business loses $6.5 billion dollars a year due to failure to provide early intervention or treatment for employees identifying with drug and alcohol/mental health issues. (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2010).

Australian culture has a deeply embedded culture of substance abuse, across all strata of society. From initial foundation in rum and opium dens, to the present day polydrug use, Australian culture has been shadowed by substance use, and the inherent damages that use causes, and corresponding costs to the social fabric.

For a large part, many consumers of substances at “At Risk” levels, also suffer from Mental health issues:

  • 50 – 75% of people presenting for substance abuse also have a mental health issue (Unit for Focus on Integrated Treatment, 2012)
  • Only 2% of people suffering co-morbid problems actually receive support and help (Mathew Martens, 2012)

The 2013 Annual Alcohol Poll: Attitudes and Behaviours (Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education, 2013) informs us that:

  • 75% of Australians believe Australia has a problem with excess drinking,
  • 78% believe it will get worse over the next 10 years,
  • 74% believe not enough is being done,
  • 73% claim they only drink 2 days a week,
  • 26% claim they only drink 3 days a week
  • 77% of Australians admit to consuming alcohol on a regular basis.

The social cost of Alcohol alone per social capital outweighs the tax revenue generated, at a ratio of $2 cost outlay to $1 raised. (Manning, Smith, Mazola, 2013).

In young Australian adults (15-24 years), 9/10 causes for disease in both young males and young females, were substance disorders, mental health issues, or both. These included: alcohol dependence, bipolar affective disorder, cannabis usage, methamphetamine usage, generalised anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, heroin usage, depression, MDMA usage, ecstasy usage, party drug usage, borderline personality disorder, social phobias, and eating disorders. (Mathews & Voss, 2006)

In Australia, on average, 3.2 worker days a week are lost due to drug and alcohol and mental health episodes.

Approximately 35 million people (ages 20-35 cohorts) suffer from co-occurring (alcohol/drugs/mental health) problems, worldwide. This is in comparison with other forms of illness:

  • 5 million who suffer from cancer
  • 12 million who suffer digestive disorders, ulcers
  • 2 million who suffer Malaria (World Health Organisation, 2009)

Direct Risks and Costs for Industry and the Workplace:

  • Mistakes, accidents, and injury claims
  • Damage to work place equipment resultant injury
  • Deterioration of workplace relationships and morale
  • Increased sickness and related absenteeism
  • Lateness and lost time
  • A marked decrease in productivity
  • Possible damage to brand/organisation/organisational image/financial status, or all of the above.
    (Work Cover Australia, 2012)


Developing a mentally healthy workplace: A review of literature, UNSW School of Psychology, UNSW School of Business, Black Dog Institute, Australian Government, 2014

Biosocial Safety Climate,

Team Based Interventions,

Healthy Workplace Kit, WorkSafe Victoria

Happiness and Productivity, University of Warwick, 2014

 Healthy Work: Productive Workplaces, Work Foundation, London Health Commission 2005

Why Australia needs better leaders, The Conversation, 2014

Karpin Report, David Karpiin, Australian Government Printing Service, 1995

Productive Workplaces, Organisations and Managing for Dignity, Meaning and Community, Marvin R. Weisbard, 1987

Improving Workplace Health, Australian Faculty for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Royal Australian College of Physicians, 2013

The Role or Affect at Employee Level: Organisational Productivity, Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, 2004

The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, Random House 2010