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$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Mental health at work

There is a lot of discussion about mental health, or “psychological health” at present. As a result, there is a growing focus on the role businesses can play in maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that psychological health also affects productivity. There is also an increase in workers’ compensation claims for mental health issues such as stress, depression, anxiety and more.

According to the Productivity Commission, almost half of all Australians will experience mental illness at some point in their life. The direct economic costs of lower economic participation and lost productivity range between $10 and $18 billion1.

There is growing recognition of the potential returns of lower absenteeism, increased productivity and reduced compensation claims from investing in strategies and programs to build mentally healthy workplaces.

It makes good business sense to manage the risks to psychological harm at work. There is also a legal requirement under the workplace health and safety laws to do this.

Historically, there has been less attention on mental health hazards in the workplace compared to physical hazards. Mental health hazards are much harder to define and address. It is not as obvious or clear what employers need to do, or what works when it comes to achieving a mentally healthy workplace.

There are many different approaches out there. Some focus on reactive methods to address mental health conditions, such as supportive counselling, awareness training and mental health first-aider training.

Although helpful for coping with problems, these methods do not necessarily address the underlying workplace factors that might have contributed to the state of poor mental health in the first place. Practical information and tools available to address mental health problems are also evolving.

Most workplace health and safety authorities consider that a mentally healthy workplace is one that has measures in place to prevent harm by identifying risks to mental health, managing risks from an early stage, and supporting recovery. At the same time, positive work-related factors are encouraged and promoted. States and territories are progressively introducing more explicit WHS regulations that also need to be complied with.

This means that for effective results, employers need to focus on identifying the work-related hazards and the systems of work that can be implemented to prevent or minimise risks of mental ill health or psychological health.

State and Territory Government agencies responsible for workplace health and safety have developed a range of tools, checklists, videos, and case studies to help employers apply these principles to comply with WHS laws. They are also designed to help you proactively address the known work-related causes of poor mental health. These include:

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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