The Importance of Recognising and Addressing Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

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At any point during the average day, it’s estimated 1 in 6 Australian workers are experiencing a mental illness. It’s more important than ever for managers to recognise and address these issues in the workplace. An estimated 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition at some stage in their life, with many of these occurring during working years. Having an adequate support system in place at work is therefore a necessity, contributing to the mental wellbeing of employees and improving productivity.


The health and wellbeing of employees is paramount

First and foremost, the happiness and wellbeing of your employees is of the greatest importance. While addressing mental health issues can result in benefits to your company, these benefits are secondary to ensuring the wellbeing of your employees.

Promoting a caring and understanding workplace where employees feel safe to speak up can make all the difference in the world to someone who may be going through a difficult time. Less than half of people experiencing depression and anxiety seek help, but providing a nurturing environment can encourage those who require support to come forward without fear of judgement or other consequences. For employees, this is vital for psychological wellbeing, as well as for ensuring a healthy, balanced life.


Productivity loss due to mental health issues is high

In the developed world, depression and anxiety have become the leading cause of long-term sickness absence. Workplaces that have poor mental health strategies put in place cost the economy an estimated $12 billion per year, including over $200 million in workers’ compensation claims. This is due in part to decreased productivity of employees, who may be experiencing anxiety, insomnia and fatigue that prevents them from performing their jobs.

According to studies, the majority of mental illness seen in the workplace is treatable. By learning how to best provide support, your company can improve productivity and employee engagement in the workplace, ensuring improved performance at work as well as fewer absences.


Providing adequate resources and support for mental health is a legal requirement

Australian employers are legally bound to provide employees with a healthy workplace, ensuring both their physical and mental health. This means the work environment must not harm the wellbeing of an employee, or aggravate an existing disorder.

Workplaces can affect mental health either positively or negatively. A mentally healthy workplace acknowledges and addresses risk factors, implementing protective factors to reduce instances. A workplace that does nothing could be worsening the situation, leading to higher rates of mental illness within workers. It’s your responsibility as an employer to ensure your employees are getting what they’re entitled to: a healthy workplace where they feel safe to seek help if required.

If an employee is feeling depressed or anxious under your employment, it’s your responsibility to provide them with adequate support and resources, as well as a workplace that’s free of discrimination and bullying. If an employee approaches you for help and you treat them differently as a consequence, you’re breaking the law.


The Illawarra Counselling Centre Can Help

If you’re looking to improve the mental health of your workplace, the Illawarra Counselling Centre can help, providing you with the tools and information you need to effectively manage mental illness. We care strongly about offering services to combat mental illness in the workplace, primarily through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs can help to identify, explore and manage any issues impacting upon the lives of employees, resulting in a decrease in medical costs, improved employee productivity, and lower rates of absenteeism.

To enquire about our services, contact our team of experienced clinicians today. Call us on 02 4226 1099, or alternatively, fill out our contact form.