How do you deal with Mental Illness in the workplace? 


How do you deal with Mental Illness in the workplace? 

The 8th to the 14th of October in 2017 is Mental Health Week.  This in combination with World Mental Health day on the 10th of October, may have you wondering how do you deal with Mental Illness in the workplace?

As a manager, employer, or business owner it is  likely that over the course of your career you will have to supervise an employee that has mental illness.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians are affected by mental illness in any given year; while 45% of Australians between the ages of 16 and 85 will experience mental illness at some point during their life.

Not managing mental illness in your workplace, can be costly.  A report developed by PWC on ‘Creating a mentally healthy workplace’ estimated that mental health conditions have a substantial impact on Australian workplaces costing $11 billion per year.

This comprises of:

  • $4.7 Billion in staff absences
  • $6.1 Billion in presenteeism (when an employee is at work but is less productive than usual because of illness or injury)
  • $145 million in compensation claims

While most workers are able to manage or hide their mental illness, without it impacting on their work, you may have employees that require extra support.

How can you provide that support?

Recognising and Promoting mental health

By recognising and promoting mental health in your workplace you will help reduce stigma that normally comes with mental illness.  Ultimately, it is often stigma around mental illness which delays or prevents people from wanting or feeling that they are able to seek help.

Offering an EAP program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP), is a service where employers offer their employees use of confidential counselling service.  If an employee is dealing with a mental illness or issue they can go and talk to a psychologist.  Offering this service doesn’t have to be pricey, with some providers only charging for services that are used.

Having an open door policy

An ‘open door’ policy means that employees are free to approach their manager, to discuss an important matter.  The purpose of letting your employees know that you have an open door policy is to encourage open communication.  This also lets employees know that you are available if needed.

Benefits of developing a mental health strategy

Under OHS Legislation employers have a responsibility to ensure they provide a safe workplace to their employees.  A workplace shouldn’t cause or aggravate existing health conditions and this extends to mental health!

Not to mention that creating a safe and healthy workplace is likely to:

  • Minimises stress
  • Improves workplace morale
  • Reduce staff absenteeism and the costs associated
  • Avoids litigation and fines for breaching health and safety or discrimination laws
  • Improve productivity

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