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Mental Health in the workplace

The state of our nation’s mental health is a prevalent topic in the media and has been described as a growing crisis. According to the ABS (Australian of bureau statistics) 1 in 5 Australians have experienced symptoms of a mental disorder and 3 million Australians live with anxiety or depression. 

Mental health issues are often very difficult to recognise, someone can appear happy to the outside world but can be struggling internally.  Some examples of signs and symptoms that are less noticeable include :

  • Confusion or inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of guilt, fear or worry
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Major changes in eating habits

Even though it’s 2017 mental health and discussions around it remain taboo in many workplaces. While some organisations are making healthy and inspiring changes to tackle this issue it would appear that many companies are still unwilling to address a problem that is staring them in the face.

Statistics

According to this report by Beyond Blue:

  • Only 5 in 10 believe their most senior leader values mental health
  • 1 in 5 Australian employees report that they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months
  • According to an ABS study, 45% of Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year

Discussing these issues in the workplace can be a challenge due to the stigma and misconceptions that people hold; however, it is essential to promote mental wellbeing in order to break down these misconceptions and begin to see change.

A safe and healthy workplace

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, there are obligations for employers to ensure the health and safety of workers and others in the workplace. Unfortunately mental health can be overlooked, or it can be difficult to discuss changes that need to be made.

If you are wondering how you can implement changes in your workplace there is a wealth of information and assistance available to you. Small changes can be the most beneficial, some of these include:

  • Leading by example.
  • Creating a culture that values respect.
  • Investing in training staff how to discuss and respond to mental health.
  • Encourage staff to use sick leave for mental health.

 A happy ending

While some workplaces have a long way to go there are those out there whose small actions are making big changes. This month Madalyn Parker, a web developer from Michigan, sent an email advising the office that she would be having a sick day to focus on her mental health. Her boss had the perfect response and when she posted it on twitter it went viral. Read the feel good article here.

If you or anyone you know needs assistance there are a number of national help lines and websites available. Click here for more information.

Written by Mikayla Whitehead (Marketing & Administration)