Mental Health in the workplace

By on April 16, 2014

This article was written by David McKelvie, Director of DMcK Management Pty Ltd.

AWARENESS of mental health conditions has dramatically increased in recent years as many of us have been touched in some manner by this most serious and often devastating health issue.

Has understanding of mental health and support of mental health increased at the same rate as awareness of mental health? I don’t know the answer to that question although from my experience I doubt it has, but I will leave you to consider it yourself.

Mental health conditions are not confined to any particular social demographic, economic status or industry sector, it is common amongst all.

The impact of mental health condition is not only limited to the individual, but can also have devastating effects on family, friends and workmates. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to self-harm, isolation, loss of job, physical illness, alcohol or drug dependence and marital/ family breakdowns amongst other tragic consequences.

Depression and anxiety are common mental health conditions in Australia.

In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression and over 2 million have anxiety. While depression and anxiety are different conditions, it is not uncommon for them to occur at the same time. Over half of those who experience depression also experience symptoms of anxiety. In some cases, one can lead to the onset of the other.

Depression affects how people feel about themselves.

They may lose interest in work, hobbies and doing things they normally enjoy. They may lack energy, have difficulty sleeping or sleep more than usual. Some people feel irritable and some find it hard to concentrate. Depression makes life more difficult to manage from day to day.

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried.

While stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where a person feels under pressure, it usually passes once the stressful situation has passed, or ‘stressor’ is removed.

Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t subside. Anxiety is when they are ongoing and exist without any particular reason or cause. It’s a serious condition, it makes it hard for a person to cope with daily life.

We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person experiencing anxiety; these feelings cannot be easily controlled. Depression and anxiety can go on for months, sometimes years if left untreated and can have many negative effects on a person’s life. It’s important to seek help early – the sooner a person gets treatment, the sooner they can recover.

It can be difficult for people with depression or anxiety to take the first step in getting help. They may need to enlist the support of family members, friends or workmates to initiate and begin treatment with a health professional.

Are you worried about someone and not sure what to say or what to do?

As a family member, friend or workmate you can help!

A great starting point is to visit the beyondblue website ( and learn how to approach and support the person you are concerned about. Beyondblue’s work is aimed at achieving an Australian community who understands depression and anxiety, empowering all Australians, at any life-stage, to seek help.

Find out how to have the conversation. Your support and concern could make a big difference.

As a business owner, manager or leader you can help!

The commitment of business owners and managers/leaders is a critical success factor for improving the mental health of workplaces. They have a significant impact on workplace culture and the working environment through their behaviour, leadership style and the design of job roles.

Small to medium businesses means owners and managers/leaders are likely to have more frequent interaction with workers and be an even more significant determinant of employee mental health.

Beyondblue has developed a range of resources to help businesses and individuals create mentally healthy workplaces. The Heads Up initiative was recently launched to encourage business leaders to take action on mental health in the workplace and give it the same priority as physical health and safety. The Heads Up website is a comprehensive online resource dedicated to providing information about mental health and the workplace. The website offers simple tools, practical advice, information and resources to take action and covers all areas of workplace mental health,

The Australian Human Rights Commission has produced a document titled, “Workers with Mental Illness: a Practical Guide for Managers 2010”. This can be downloaded from the following link.

The CMPA acknowledges beyondblue for their contribution to this article through information being sourced from their website.

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