Mental health in the workplace is the theme of World Mental Health Day 2017, this Tuesday October 10th.
Small business owners are aware of their Occupational Health and Safety obligations when it comes to physical risks in the workplace, however in the case of mental health, research shows that nearly half of all senior managers believe none of their workers will experience mental health problems at work.
Mental Illness is more prevalent than many people realise, with greater than 1 in 5 Australians experiencing some sort of mental health condition in any given year and almost 50% of us in our lifetimes. The reality is that mental health conditions exist in workplaces across all industries in Australia.
The workplace can affect the mental health of people within it and vice versa. Often the external warning signs of mental health issues may be viewed simply as poor performance.
Mental health isn’t just important for your employees, but for your own health and the successful running of your business in the long term. Creating a safe and healthy workplace is not only a legal obligation as an employer, it also makes good business sense in many ways. It significantly reduces costs associated with worker absence and high worker turnover; achieves greater staff loyalty; provides higher return on training investment and improves morale. 
Additionally, it improves productivity more that you may think. Research funded by beyondblue and the National Mental Health Commission shows that every dollar spent on effective workplace mental health actions may generate $2.30 in benefits to an organisation. That is a massive 230% return in improved productivity and more for smaller sized organisations (through increased work output and reduced sick and other leave).
Small business owners and managers are often not equipped to respond to an emerging mental health issue, the result can be costly both to individual lives and the business bottom line. Resources like the 2010 Workers with Mental Illness: The Practical Guide for Managers published by the Australian Human Rights Commission is an excellent resource to assist managers navigate this complex issue.
Training is also available through various organisations via programs like The Mindful Employer program provided by Sane Australia; National Workplace Program provided by Beyondblue and various programs provided by Black Dog Institute, Mental First Aid Australia and MH@work.
Recognizing the behavior is the first step to ensuring healthy workplaces. Some common behaviors which indicate underlying mental health problems include
|Functional Impacts||Social Impacts||Personal impacts|
|Lack of focus||Not engaging with others||No confidence in areas they previously have been|
|Erratic||Social withdrawal||Focused internally|
|Difficulty making decisions||Discord with colleagues||Need to control/be perfect|
|Task overdrive||Unapproachable||Excessively tired|
|Avoidance of work||Micro managing other staff members||Overly reactive emotionally|
|Accidents (not following safety protocols)||Unusually argumentative||Very over-confident|
|Lack of concentration||Morale issues||Physical signs such as headaches|
|Reduced productivity||Seeking extra support||Increased substance use|
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For immediate help the following resources are available.
by Sarah Eldridge on 4th October 2017 in Blog
 (Source: Hilton, Whiteford, Sheridan, Cleary, Chant, Wang, Kessler (2008) The Prevalence of Psychological Distress in Employees and Associated Occupational Risk Factors)
 (Source: Australian Human Rights Commission 2010 Workers with Mental Illness: The Practical Guide for Managers
 (Source: Headsup.org.au Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis
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