How well does your organisation handle Mental Health issues in the workplace?

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July 6th, 2015

Mental and physical health issues caused by stress are on the rise. Organisations are responsible for the health and wellbeing of their workers both physically and mentally whilst they are at work. It is estimated that mental health is costing Australian employees $10.9 Billion dollars a year in absenteeism, lower productivity, rehabilitation and compensation.

Figures provided by ‘Sane Australia’ show that mental health issues will either affect us personally or indirectly at some stage during our lives.

  • Nearly half (45%) of the population will experience a mental disorder at some stage in their lives
  • Almost one in five Australians (20%) will experience a mental illness in a 12-month period
  • During a one-year period, anxiety disorders will affect 14% of the population and depression will affect 6%
  • By taking preventative measures, and providing access to services such as employment assistance programs and health awareness activities employers have seen an upswing in productivity and the feeling of security and well-being can be achieved – increasing the profitability of the organisation. It has been estimated that for every $1 spent on Mental Health prevention by an organisation, profitability will be increased by at least $2.30.

    Work-related stress is caused when workers are presented with work demands and pressures that do not match their knowledge and abilities can challenge their ability to cope. Stress is often made worse when workers feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues and where they have little or no control over their work.

    It is recommended that organisations adopt a systematic and structured approach to work health and safety (WHS) risk management. Mental Health injuries should be treated or assessed in a similar way to a physical injury in that provisions for assessment should be included within an organisation’s WHS plan, risk assessments and job decriptions, with an outlook for both physical and mental health risks using the following:
    1. Identify any sources of potential harm to an employee’s health and wellbeing
    2. Systematically assess the chance of risk that employees may face
    3. Develop and implement a plan to:

  • address any workplace factors that have been found to be risks of psychological injury
  • take steps to minimise the impact of stress on employees
  • provide safe and effective return to work for individuals if an injury has occurred
  • 2Organisations can play a part in increasing awareness and understanding of mental health problems in the workplace and how they impact on the lives of people affected, including their work performance.

    Communication and training can play an important role to decrease the stigma towards a colleague with depression or a related disorder, allowing others to confidently reach out to assist or manage the worker. This can also assist managers with providing a greater understanding of their responsibilities to staff and the organisation as they relate to these issues.

    Through the use of sound workplace polices, well informed managers, training and support systems many mental health issues can be avoided or minimised within an organisation leading to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.