When we think of health and safety, we think of preventing falls and injuries in the workplace. After years of improving how physically safe we are at work, there is now interest in ensureing workplaces are mentally healthy too. A company that promotes the importance of mental health and empowers people to seek help for depression and anxiety benefits the workplace as well as the wider community.
In an independently conducted survey for Beyond Blue, State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia, 91% of employees believed mentally healthy workplaces are important to workers. However, 52% of respondents believe their workplace is mentally healthy compared to physically safe which accounted for 76%.
With education, time and acceptance hopefully the vast majority of Australian employees can say they work for a company that places equal importance on the mental and physical health and safety of its workers.
Stigma of Mental Health
Mental health is recognised and spoken more freely in the community than it was five years ago. Celebrities and sports professionals have talked about their struggles in the media so that it has become a talking point and more accepted. However, mental health illness don’t only impact a small number of Australians (or only women, or only the weak). The Australian Bureau of Statistics believes 45% of people aged over 16 will experience a mental health condition at some point in their life. That means it touches the entire adult age range and all genders.
However, stigma related to a mental health illness remains in a large part of the workforce. In the Beyond Blue survey, almost half (48%) did not tell their employer that they felt mentally unwell and had taken time off to deal with it in the previous 12 months.
Committed to Mental Health
Only 37% of survey respondents said the leaders in their workplace were committed to promoting the mental health of staff. However, leaders viewed themselves differently with 71% responding that they were committed.
Employees who are unsure if their workplace has policies, procedures and practices to support workplace mental health accounted for 35% of respondents. Over 80% of leaders indicated their workplace has one or more policies, procedures and practices.
Costs of Ignoring Employee Mental Health
Providing a mentally healthy workplace isn’t just the right thing to do for employees, it can have a significant impact on the bottom line. One in 5 employees has taken time off work in the last 12 months due to feeling mentally unwell. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has calculated the costs to the Australian economy. It’s estimated that untreated mental health cost $10.9 billion per year. This figure includes $4.7 billion in absenteeism, $6.1 billion in presenteeism and $146 million in compensation claims.
Where Employees Seek Help
Encouragingly 64% of employees said they would seek the support of a colleague if they experienced a mental health condition but employees are least likely to approach Human Resources for assistance.
Providing mental health training for staff is a way of empowering employees to help their colleagues suffering from anxiety or depression. Also, having a high profile and quality EAP service is a way for employees to seek treatment confidentially.
The survey reveals a high majority of employees see mentally healthy workplaces as important and likely to be more productive. PeopleSense offers a full range of Clinical Psychological Services by registered psychologists. If you would like to gain strategies to improve the mental health of your workplace, contact a professional from People Sense on (08) 9388 9000 or 1300 307 912