Mental Health in the Workplace

A much-needed check-up for you and your business

Throughout October, Mental Health was in the global spotlight with World Mental Health Day and both Federal and State governments as well as leading organisations launching new initiatives, campaigns and programs to raise awareness and provide support services for mental health.

Mental health both in the workplace and throughout the entire community is at critical levels. Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said that four million Australians deal with a chronic or episodic mental health issue each year. The suicide rate in Australia spiked in 2017 at 3128 deaths and a 2014 report from the University of NSW and the Black Dog Institute put the economic cost of mental ill health at $11 billion.

The facts are indisputable and the need for everyone to take note and action, is nonnegotiable.

Mental Health Australia, the peak not-for-profit organisation representing the sector in Australia, led the World Mental Health Day campaign in Australia, with ‘Do You See What I See?’ A campaign ‘to challenge perceptions, encourage everyone to look at mental health in a more positive light, in an effort to reduce stigma and make way for more people to see the help and support they deserve.’

A great approach and just one of the recent announcements that we’re reviewing while unpacking a number of the key issues and referencing resources and tools, to empower you to support yourself, your employees, your colleagues, friends and family and your business.

Recognising the Issue

Mental illness covers a wide range of conditions including stress, anxiety and depression and many other psychological and psychiatric disorders. From a workplace perspective, stress and anxiety are probably the most common and Heads Up says that workplace stress can occur when there is a mismatch between the requirements of the role, the person’s capabilities and the resources and supports available. Further, they say that while everyone experiences stress at some stage, it can become a problem when it is ongoing.

With many high profile people including sports stars, business identities and politicians publicly acknowledging their own mental health issues, we’re reminded that this illness does not discriminate. This publicity may also have contributed to reducing the stigma around mental health, especially stress and anxiety.

According to data from Beyond Blue, the stigma around common mental health conditions is far lower than people experiencing them may believe. The data showed that 90% of people believe anxiety is a real medical illness and 86% of those surveyed did not consider it a weakness.

“We are really encouraged by this, I think mountains have been moved in the way everyday people are starting to think about common mental health issues,” said Beyond Blue CEO, Georgie Harman.

“People get that these (anxiety and depression) are real illnesses, and it’s not a case of, ‘suck up some cement, sweetheart and pull yourself out of it’.”

This is great news for sufferers but recognising and accepting that the issue exists is just one aspect. How does a small-medium business in Macarthur actually deal with mental health in their own workplace?

Creating a Healthy Workplace

As a first step, Heads Up advises businesses to ensure they provide a healthy workplace to promote mental wellbeing, minimise risks and support both yourself and your employees experiencing mental health issues. Head to www.headsup.org.au for strategies you can implement. We also covered some of these issues in our Detox Your Business article.

The Heads Up initiative was launched by beyondblue in partnership with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (MHWA) and encourages all people in every workplace to take action on mental health and provides free tools and resources to assist.

Empowering and Equipping Managers

As a business owner, senior manager or team leader, you may feel ill-equipped and under qualified to deal with employees or colleagues who are experiencing mental health issues. You may also be struggling with your own issues. Fortunately, there are a number of places where you can source information and training.

Beyondblue has a number of free programs including a toolbox talk training package and online programs to suit a range of workplace audiences, with some able to be imported into a business’ own learning systems. Check out the options at www.beyondblue.org.au

The NSW Government also offers better support for thousands of workers to overcome mental health challenges with their Mentally Healthy Workplaces strategy.

Launched on 22 October, by Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean, this is a new workplace intervention program with a website providing free support and resources.

“We know about one in six workers will experience significant mental illness in any four week period. Because mental illness can sometimes reoccur, the proportion of the workforce experiencing this in any year may be even higher,” Mr Kean said.

“When mental health challenges arise, it can often mean time off work. But returning to work is an important step in recovery because it can help give structure and a sense of purpose.”

Two key inclusions in the program are access to free, tailored SafeWork NSW training for at least 3,600 managers to improve awareness and support of mental illness and free support and resources for both workers and managers through https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/safety starts-here/mental-health-at-work-the-basics/mental-health-@-work

“This is the first stage of the $55 million Mentally Healthy Workplaces strategy, which represents the single-biggest investment in workplace mental health in the country’s history,” Mr Kean said. “Mental health-related absenteeism is estimated to cost the NSW economy $1.5 billion annually. This strategy will play a critical role in improving people’s lives while maximising the State’s productivity.”

The Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies said these new initiatives would make it easier for take the steps of reaching out for support to stay in, or return, to work.

Support, Tools and Resources

While intended as a time of relaxation and enjoyment, the year-end holiday and festive season can be a time of additional stress and anxiety, depression and loneliness for many people. So don’t delay your actions until the new year. Make a commitment to yourself, your workers and your business, utilise the support on offer and start dealing with mental health issues in your immediate environment, immediately.

Utilise the resources we have referenced for you and if you or anyone you know is experiencing personal difficulties, please contact
Lifeline 14 11 14 or
beyondblue on 1300 224 636

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Lyndall Lee Arnold
Differentiated by a rare combination of natural creative talent and business sensibility, Lyndall is an experienced writer who effectively puts together words to explain, sell, train, excite, inspire, motivate, explain, entertain and communicate. Writing for the page, the screen, the mic, she infuses every project with her insight, instinct and initiative. As a small business owner/operator, she identifies closely with Smarter Macarthur readers and as editor, explores issues and starts conversations beyond the expected. Delivering valuable and useful resources and information in every issue to build our readers’ knowledge base and increase their business productivity. Based on a strong foundation as a creative spirit, writer, producer and project manager, Lyndall has developed a wealth of experience and expertise across the full spectrum of marketing and communications services in an even broader range of industry sectors. Her contemporary, conversational writing style is perfect for websites and marketing campaigns, but she excels at varying her style to suit the product and the audience - from quirky and creative, to ‘straight to the point’ business through to classic and formal speak for grants and awards. In an interesting and varied career, Lyndall has proven her capability to transform business ideas and aspirations into practical, workable reality with her common sense approach and conscientious attitude.

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