Mental Health in the Workplace

Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning whilst sipping on my iced almond latte, I was alarmed by a multitude of statistics that caught my attention. These statistics were taken from a report done by Beyond Blue, a non-profit organisation that addresses the mental health issues within Australia. Their most recent report on the “State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia”, indicates:

  • One in five Australian employees report that they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months.
  • 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. 

Historically, mental health was not really talked about in the workplace. There was always a “fear in admittance” and other social stigmas that surrounded the topic, which ultimately propelled a culture of silence between employees and employers. Since then, significant progress has been made in creating awareness for the topic and more organisations are shining a light on mental health. However, even with mental health being under the spotlight, many employees and employers are inexperienced in dealing with such situations. 

One of the key findings indicated in the Beyond Blue report was that; 91% of employees believe that mental health in a workplace is important, however only 54% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy. Furthermore, only five in ten (56%) believe their most senior leader values mental health. These findings continue to emphasise how, despite the fact that there has been significant progress made in creating awareness for mental health, the rate of adoption continues to be low. 

Workplaces have been identified to be an appropriate setting to promote and support the mental health of workers. This is due to a combination of factors including open communication channels, supportive environments and access to a large number of people. More leaders and managers should look into leveraging these factors to create a workplace that both promotes and supports the mental health of workers. 

This year I have started a lifeline course to become an accredited support worker. I was drawn to this after realizing how many people struggle with mental health issues and being in the position I am at work; I feel it is a gift that I am able to support and provide an environment for employees whereby we address mental health. 

I wanted to provide some key takeaways that I have found, which cultivates a supportive environment in order to support and manage mental health in the workplace:

  1. Create a positive environment: constructive feedback and positive reinforcement are essential in building a healthy and respectful workplace
  2. Listen as much as you talk 
  3. Adopt a stress management culture and talk about mental health
  4. Be Approachable (Simple, yes, but hard in practice – be someone that employees can feel comfortable speaking to)

At the end of the day, everyone is human and what it really boils down to is having a personal level of investment in all of your employee’s well-being. This will create stronger relationships and curate a healthy culture. Let’s refer to the statistic mentioned above regarding how mental health costs Australian workplaces $10.9 billion per year. This means it doesn’t hurt organisations to put a little bit more effort and resources into your workers, because healthy workers create healthy environments. 

(https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1270-report—tns-the-state-of-mental-health-in-australian-workplaces-hr.pdf?sfvrsn=8).

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