Working with mental health: How businesses can help

In Australia, one in five people aged 16-85 years experience a mental health illness in any given year, according to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The three most common illnesses that have been identified are depressive and bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.

These don’t always occur in isolation, and individuals will often experience a combination of these.

When an individual experiences poor mental health for an extended period of time and to an extent that it impacts their daily lives, this is considered this a mental health problem.

A mental health problem does not always mean someone has a diagnosed illness or condition. Only a qualified health professional can make that diagnosis.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health problems, appropriate professional help should be sought.

Mental health at work

According to mental health advocacy organisation, Beyond Blue, “Creating an environment that supports and promotes the wellbeing of staff is ethically responsible. It also ensures that your organisation is meeting WHS requirements to provide an environment that is both physically and mentally safe and healthy.”

Workplaces can have enormous influence on the wellbeing of an employee, which can also extend to their families, friends and the community.

A workplace culture that understands and supports the mental health of its workers can result in a more motivated and engaged workforce, increased productivity, and may help to reduce overall stress levels (a main contributing factor to mental health issues).

Encouraging positive attitudes and behaviours will go a long way to reducing the stigma associated with mental health, and the potential for discrimination in the workplace.

Injury is now defined to include psychological injury, including any aggravation or acceleration of a pre-existing illness.

Employers have a duty of care under the relevant legislation to provide and monitor a safe system of work, which is without risk to employees’ health and safety, including psychological harm. Employers also have a duty to monitor employee health and wellbeing.

Early intervention and workplace initiatives 

Consulting firm PwC found that effective actions to create a mentally healthy workplace can lead to a positive return on investment for organisations, on average.

Just like physical injuries, early intervention programs are key in helping people developing, experiencing or recovering from mental health problems.

Creating awareness and introducing a process to help get workers the appropriate professional can prevent problems or concerns from escalating. It can also reduce the risk of social and work disengagement or substance abuse.

Mental health first aid training can help by educating business leaders about how to recognise the signs and symptoms that may indicate that a worker is experiencing a mental health problem or developing a mental health disorder.

Implementing a mental health and wellbeing policy in the workplace is one way to start the discussion around mental health at work. Open communication, ongoing training, meaningful support programs, as well as the commitment of senior management and business leaders is key to the successful implementation of a mental health program in the workplace.

With workers compensation claims relating to mental health conditions on the rise, now more than ever is a great time to start talking about mental health in the workplace. 

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid Training, contact Work Healthy Australia. https://www.workhealthyaustralia.com.au/contact-us/

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