Understanding mental health in your workplace

Mental health issues include conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders. If treated, mental illness can be managed and people can live full and productive lives. Mental illness should be accepted in the workplace, like any other illness or disability.

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental illnesses in the workplace. Research suggests that people may develop symptoms of mental illness in response to stress, trauma, social change, drugs or alcohol.

Supporting people with mental health issues

Healthy workplaces value diversity. Inclusive workplaces address myths and stereotypes about mental health issues, and promote understanding of the causes of mental illness.

Your organisation should be aware of stress factors, mental illness and ways to accommodate individual needs.

People with a diagnosed mental illness are likely to be aware of the stressors that can trigger symptoms of their illness. Supportive workplaces allow for personalised arrangements. Your management and employees with mental illness can work together to find individual solutions to the employment issues.

A good way to support mental health in the workplace could be to include awareness as part of your induction processes or work health and safety training. Mental health awareness could also form part of ongoing staff education and training programs.

Funding for Mental Health Awareness Training for the workplace is available to eligible applicants through the Employment Assistance Fund.

Managing mental health in your organisation

Stress is common in today's working world. Too much stress can hamper our ability to do our jobs and to communicate properly. It can reduce belief in our capabilities and cause depression and other mental illnesses.

Smart employers foster a workplace culture that promotes mutual responsibility for mental health. All organisations can drive healthy practices such as work-life balance, physical exercise, good diet, and stress-reduction practices.

Heads up’ is an initiative of The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance and beyondblue. This program provides tools and resources for employers and their employees to create mentally healthy workplaces.

Stress awareness for staff and management

Signs of stress include feelings of hopelessness, agitation, anxiety (heart palpitations, shortness of breath), making mistakes, forgetfulness, poor communication, being easily angered, and increased intake of alcohol or drugs.

Your team members should be aware of the factors that cause stress for themselves and their co-workers. Your team members should feel comfortable discussing stress and mental health issues among themselves or with a counsellor or trusted friend. Staff should also be encouraged to take designated meal breaks, and get physical exercise during breaks to release tension.

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