Mental illness is still a mystery in the modern day workforce… what is causing you pain? Unhappiness in the workplace?

If a team member gets physically sick you take action. If someone gets the flu – you do something – ban them from the office The workplace is more savvy today around physical wellness such as massage & corporate fitness training. Dieticians/ gym membership but what do you do to support good mental health?

So many employers disregard the impact of poor mental health and do nothing. The Australian Human Rights Commission has estimated that around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. A total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress. Mondo has recruited over 2700 people over the last 20 years and not once have we read a letter of offer, with a clause providing time for mental health leave – only sick leave is noted. Nor have I ever read clauses for support for mental health. I believe we need to make little steps and provide simple tools and assistance to support staff in the workplace.

It is often presumed that a worker’s mental illness develops outside of the workplace. However, an ‘unhealthy’ work environment or a workplace incident can cause considerable stress.

Grief is a process that all people will experience at many points in their life. Grief can be loss of a loved one, change of circumstance – (such a house move, demotion or divorce) or even grief for a change in a life stage. Repressed grief can also cause dysfunctional behaviour. Employers should be aware of employees experiencing grief and offer support to making a workplace more supportive.

Providing a healthy and safe workplace benefits all workers, including those with mental illness. It also makes good business sense. Stress-related workers’ compensation claims have doubled in recent years, costing over $10 billion each year. Australian businesses lose over $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions. Harvard Health Publications advise employees and employers to think of mental health care as an investment.

So, as employers let’s start to think of ways to provide support in the work force and talk openly about mental health. Some ways that we can do this are:

  • Provide and note time for mental health days and include these in sick leave entitlements on letters of offer
  • Make available mental health counselling
  • Supportive grief counselling and support
  • Link to the key available support services in your company intranet and in-house resource tools, such as Beyond Blue and RUOK websites
  • Simply talking openly about these services and be supportive
  • Encourage volunteer days supporting mental health
  • Get to know your staff wholistically
  • Build a “ Trusting culture” that improves productivity and wasted negativity – See Stephen MR Covey – Smart Trust 2011

When it comes to mental health situations in the workplace – ignorance is not bliss!