Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health is a massive part of anyone’s life, but when you move into a workplace depending on the occupation, it can become more fragile. Our mental health is just as important as physical health, as it affects us the same amount. One of the harshest bits about mental health is that unlike physical health, it is easy to conceal. Hiding it is the silent killer. As we develop in physical ways, we also develop cognitively.  

Mental health issues in the workplace have become talked about so much more in the past couple of years compared to the 50s or 60s for example. Fixing mental health issues in the workplace are not impossible, but they cannot be fixed quickly nor completely. Making mental health in the workplace requires action, rather than just discussion. As a group we have devised a few plans to be able to make the topic of mental health not a taboo subject and something to run from, rather a topic that can be discussed in a work community without worrying about judgement.

In this site the topic of mental disorders and suicide will be mentioned but will be outlined, so please, be aware of that.

The Types of Mental Issues people face

There are many different types of illnesses that peoples can get, but the most common ones include:

– Depression

– Anxiety

– Suicidal thoughts/actions

There are many different services that you are able to contact if you are having difficulties dealing with any of these, such as:

– Psychologists & psychiatrists

– Beyond Blue 

– MensLine Australia 

– Open Arms

– Lifeline

– Suicide Call Back Service

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What Needs to be Changed?

There needs to be a wider range of acceptance in the workplace for mental issues. The topic of mental wellbeing needs to be brought up more frequently and discussed more often to promote conversations regarding peoples own mental health. Workplaces (depending on the occupation) are stressful places, which develops into a playground for mental issues to thrive. One of the biggest concerns is suicide. Between 2011-13 there were 781 workplace related suicides in the US alone. This is an alarming figure because these suicides made up for 5% of the total workplace fatalities (13,906) in that period of time. The age group with the highest rate of suicides is the 45-54 years group (Text 2). According to Heads Up created by Beyond Blue, there are 9 key attributes of a mentally healthy workplace:

  1. Prioritising mental health
  2. Trusting, fair and respectful culture
  3. Open and honest leadership
  4. Good job design
  5. Workload management
  6. Employee development
  7. Inclusion and influence
  8. Work/Life balance
  9. Mental health support

Bullying in the workplace often gets overlooked as it is commonly done by someone who holds an authoritative position. In a 2007 report conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 37% of employees have been bullied and 72% of those employees stated that they were bullied by people of higher ranks (Text 1).

Text 1
Text 2

A Few Facts

  • One in five Australian employees report that they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the past 12 months. 
  • 91% believe mental health in the important (88% believe physical safety is important). 
  • Despite this, only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy compared to 76% for physical safety. 
  • Every second working Australian (56%) believes that their most senior leader values mental health. 
  • One in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. 
  • 81% of organisational leaders indicate their workplace has one or more policies, procedures or practices to support mental health, but many employees (35%) don’t know these resources exist or don’t have access to them. 
  • While creating a mentally healthy workplace is everyone’s responsibility, mental health is a leadership issue, and change must start at the top. Business owners and organisational leaders play a critical role in driving policies and practices that promote mental health in the workplace. They have the capacity to positively influence workplace culture, management practices and the experience of employees. 
  • The research found that while nine in ten Australian employees (91%) agree that is it important to work in a mentally healthy environment, only 52% of employees agree their workplace is mentally healthy 
  • 60% of employees have never discussed their mental health at work. … health conditions each year, mental health remains a taboo subject. 
  • A common reason why mental health can be a taboo subject is a fear of appearing weak and vulnerable in front of others. Although this can be seen in both sexes, it is especially apparent among men – as they are less likely to talk about their mental health.

Why is Mental Wellbeing only becoming relevant in the workplace now?

  • Mental health is becoming an increasingly important topic in the workplace.   
  • In Australia, mental health issues are one of the main health-related reasons for reduced work performance.  
  • There is increasing evidence that workplaces can play an important and active role in maintaining the mental health and well-being of their workers. 
  • Every workplace has a legal and ethical responsibility to provide a safe and fair workplace, and support the mental wellbeing of their workers.   
  • well-designed workplace can support individual mental health and wellbeing, leading to reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (i.e. when someone is at work but their health is impacting on their performance), increased employee engagement and improved productivity. 

Why do we need to fix this?

Mental health is a universal issue which needs to be solved. However, we don’t really associate mental health with workplaces. It is only now that it has been started to bring aware to many people. We need to solve this because it is a growing and ongoing issue many people are facing in today’s world and it has many negative effects on humans. Anxiety and depression rates are rising rapidly and from our research work environments have a vital role in leading to these mental illnesses.

What is causing the problem?

There are no designated reasons for the problems we are faced with but there are multiple causes contributing to negative mental health in the workplace that have been proven by many reports. Stress is a major factor, workplaces tend to put a lot of pressure on their employees to get tasks done on time, conflicts between collogues, working in groups and many more. This can lead to anxiety and depression which can cause many negative effects on the person.  

What is already being done?

  • Companies have tried to provide education about mental health and encouraged open discussions 
  • Providing employees with the ability to interact with respect and consideration 
  • Offer an environment where employees have regular two-way feedback and are encouraged, acknowledged and rewarded 
  • Ensure that managers and staff are responsive to employees’ mental health conditions, regardless of cause and that adjustments to work and counselling support are available. 
  • Employ effective leadership to give employees a sense of shared purpose in the goals of the organization. 
  • Don’t just say you support mental health. Model it so that your team members feel they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries.
What strategies are other countries using?
  • Despite decades of disagreement among mental health practitioners and researchers in the Western world pertaining to the causation, classification and treatment of mental disorders there is an ongoing push to implement western mental health models in developing countries. Little information exists on the adaptability of western mental health models in developing countries

What are some basic things that can get the ball rolling?

Healthy eating, getting plenty of sleep, and regular physical activity are all important to good mental health. Learning skills which help deal with stress, feeling down, relationships or the symptoms of the illness, are also ways in which someone with a mental illness can look after themselves.

Some ideas we have come up with:

  • Creating a safe space for people to talk

Be vulnerable to your colleagues, build an emotional connection to them, be inclusive, let others talk and listen to them, be open to listening, perform random acts of kindness, make yourself welcoming 

  • All companies to put more effort into making Mental Wellbeing week 

Have daily activities like we do at school during lunch breaks for example to bring awareness to issues such as depression and anxiety  

  • Providing mental wellbeing dogs 

All workplaces have a dog or someone volunteers to bring their dogs in on a roster for the workplace and people can have a break and play with it or take it for walks  

  • Celebrating R U OK day 

Have a list of activities such as wear yellow to work, have a shared group lunch and talk about feelings and emotions with your colleagues and open up to each other.  

  • Bringing in speakers to talk about mental wellbeing and educate others  

We will hire out some people who have had personal experiences with mental health in the workplace and they can share their experiences with the workplaces and provide ways to support  

  • Providing psychologists

We will hire out some people who have had personal experiences with mental health in the workplace and they can share their experiences with the workplaces and provide ways to support  There can be a specific psychologist for certain workplaces depending on the occupation that specialize in a certain area .

  • Meditation breaks 

Have 5-minute break every 1-2 hours depending on what the people want and do some meditation.

  • The group (work) provides a fun get-together and have a mental wellbeing day 

Once a month have a day designated for wellbeing and bettering the mental health in the workplace. Go out somewhere and do team building games with your work to create a strong bond between colleagues.  

  • When managers get promoted/join the company, they have to go through a course to be equipped to deal with their employee’s mental issues to a degree, and know when to advise them to see a specialist 

There is a program for bosses and managers to learn how to deal with issues such as anxiety and depression in the workplace and how to work with people experiencing that  

Starting Education in Childhood

At Iona, we have the access to psychologists and adults to talk to 24/7. We also have access to our schools Mental Wellbeing dog, Leroy. Girls are able to walk Leroy around the school at lunch and recess with Leroy and play with him. Even though Ms Chapman (one of our school psychologists) thought that bringing Leroy in would just be fun for the girls, there are many benefits that our little furry friends have, such as:

  • They calm people down 
  • They need exercise which is important for a healthy mind.
  • They normalise heart and blood pressure.

And much more…