Is Mental Health really a big deal?
Would it shock you if I told you that according to the World Health Organisation, Mental Illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide? Or that the Australian Human Rights Commission predict that 45% of Australians aged 16-85 will experience a Mental Illness at some point in their life – or 1 in 5 Australians experience Mental Illness in any given year?
That’s a lot of people.
Would it then surprise you if I said that the Australian Human Rights Commission found that half of all senior managers believe that none of their workers will experience a mental health problem at work?
That doesn’t seem to add up…
We spend how long at work?!
Now let’s think about work for a second.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, full-time employees in Australia work an average of 40 hours per week (keep in mind these numbers don’t account for preparation, travel and over-time the average employee might work).
If we calculate that 40 hours over the space of a year, it ends up being a total of 2,080 hours – 2,000 hours if we account for paid annual leave.
We work 2,000 hours a year.
Now let’s think about how many years we work over the space of our lifetime. Australia no longer has a set retirement age, however, if we assume that the average person retires around the age of 65-70, and begins full-time work around the age of 20, that leaves us with a total of 45-50 years.
So let’s say 47.5 years of work, to account for holidays, earlier retirement, younger starting age etc. – which equals 47.5 x 2,000 = 95,000.
This means the average person will work 95,000 hours in their lifetime.
Mental Health & Stress Leave.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 3.2 days leave per year are taken by employees as a direct result of workplace stress. That is the equivalent of 25 hours.
25 hours a year are lost due to workplace stress.
That’s a lot of hours over the space of a worker’s lifetime. Which means a lot of lost time and money to any given employer.
A survey conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions of 5,000 employees found that 25% of works took time off each year for stress-related reasons. That’s a quarter of all employees.
Which begs the question:
Why aren’t our employers taking this more seriously?
It is abundantly clear that the cost of ignoring an employee’s Mental Health Concerns is a far greater issue than the cost of developing an inclusive, safe and productive work environment.
The Australian Human Rights Commission estimate that every dollar spent on identifying, supporting and managing workers with Mental Health Concerns yields nearly a 500 percent return in productivity.
That’s a huge return, for a small bit of effort.
In fact, a preliminary investigation into how Mental Health affects Australian businesses, carried out by Mental Health Australia found that Australian Businesses lose over $6.5 billion a year by failing to provide adequate Mental Health Support to employees.
Put simply: supporting employees supports the business.
It should be every workplace’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for employees experiencing concerns regarding their Mental Health. Besides the obvious cost benefit of implementing mental health strategies, their are also an abundance of other benefits businesses can access by being proactive:
- Improved employee morale & company culture
- Obvious avoidance of litigation and fines relating to health and safety
- A greater staff loyalty
- A higher return on training investment
- Increased productivity
- A reduction in in sick (and other) leave
So what can employers do?
There are a plethora of ways that workplaces can help their employees, which can be accessed via the Australian Human Rights Commission website, or by contacting Safe Work Australia. Some of the ways other workplaces have chosen to implement strategies to combat Mental Health include:
- Having accessible information regarding Mental Health
- Encouraging conversations in the workplace
- Flexible working arrangements
- Inviting a Mental Health Specialist to speak to employees
- Adequate training for Managers on the importance of identifying and managing employee Mental Health Concerns
- Being creative – some workplaces have a weekly Yoga session, or a gym set up out the back to let off some steam in lunch breaks
- Encouraging employees to take their breaks away from their desks
There are plenty of great ways to help reduce stress at work – try Workplace Strategies for Mental Health. It’s all about thinking outside the box.
Mental Illness can affect anyone.
Mental Illness is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s time workplaces really started considering the benefits of being a proactive, progressive place to work, instead of doing to bare minimum to scrape by under the ‘law’. No matter what your age, your gender, your race or your status, we all need to come together to tackle the epidemic that is right in front of our face.
Resources for those seeking help:
Remember, your safety should always be a priority. If you are in crisis or your mental health becomes an emergency, call 000.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you, or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to use the following resources:
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
QLife: 1800 184 527
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at ‘The Art of Overthinking’.