People are the most important part of an organisation which is why the topic of mental health is essential for everyone to understand. Mental health is integral to living a positive, balanced life, and for performing at your potential in a working environment.
Work-related mental health conditions (also known as psychological injuries) have become a major concern in Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims. Each year:
- 7,200 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions, equating to around 6% of workers’ compensation claims, and
- approximately $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions.
Mental health can be adversely affected by exposure to a range of hazards or factors in the workplace such as poor workplace relationships, low role clarity, poor environmental conditions or poor organisational change movement. Exposure to these hazards can lead to work-related stress, which can build up leading to depression or anxiety in the long term.
Findings from a Safe Work Australia report show that on each year between 2012-13 and 2016-17:
- 92% of serious work-related mental health condition claims were attributed to mental stress
- 21% of people said work pressure was the main case of serious mental health condition claims, with 20% accounting for work related harassment or bullying, and
- reaction to stressors and anxiety/stress disorder accounted for 37% and 31% respectively of mental health conditions for which workers received compensation.
It is important to act early if you suspect your employee is experiencing a problem with their mental health. For the sake of the health of your employee, as well as your business, early intervention is necessary. When you notice one or more of these signs it may be time to intervene:
- Unhealthy or unkept appearance/abnormal appearance
- Mood swings, emotional rollercoasters or erratic behaviour
- Easily irritated, frustrated or angered
- Taking or needing a lot of time off
- Moments of confusion or an inability to solve a problem
- Unnecessary fear, worry or anxiety
- Decrease in or lack of productivity
- Withdrawal from social situations, especially with co-workers
- Abuse of drugs, alcohol or other vices
Mental health concerns are unlike other performance-related issues and therefore, the approach must be different. You must be empathetic to their concerns, issues, and personal problems. It is important to remember that for most people suffering from a mental health issue, it is not their choice to feel this way and if given the choice, their mental health issue would not impact their work life.
It helps to provide your employee with space and freedom to express themselves openly. Express your concerns by asking if there is anything going on that is making work or life more difficult and pay close attention to their words and expressions. It is important not to attack or discriminate them, find somewhere private and speak to them as an equal.
Using a systematic approach to mental health in your workplace can have significant benefits including:
- Decreasing business disruption and costs from work-related psychological injury
- improving worker motivation, engagement and job satisfaction, leading to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and ultimately helping your organisation achieve its business goals, and
- enhancing your reputation as an employer of choice.
Employees who are not already receiving help or treatment can receive an evaluation from a physician through most medical insurance programs. Most health insurance programs also provide types of coverage for mental health-related prescriptions, treatments, therapies, and more.
It is essential for all employees with mental health issues to speak to their human resources department about their work-provided options and benefits, and it is just as important to ensure your organisation has a strong understanding of mental health.
Source: Discovery Mood, Doctor On Demand, Safe Work Australia