Too much lip service is being paid to mental health with not enough action being taken, especially in the workplace. New figures released from the state government revealed the majority of businesses in the state were failing to address mental health and its impact on work, despite it costing billions of dollars annually in lost productivity.
NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean said recently;
“The findings show nearly half of the businesses have no measures in place that specifically address mental health in the workplace. “That’s quite a staggering statistic when you consider that one third of our adult life is spent at work and that work can therefore have a significant impact on our mental health.”
Mental illness is now the leading cause of long-term sickness absences among Australian workers, overtaking back pain for the first time internationally as the most common cause of work incapacity.
A person with a severe mental health condition can have up to 42 days off work, in addition to normal sick leave, according to a 2014 PwC report. The total annual cost of mental ill health to NSW employers is an estimated $2.8 billion.
An analysis by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation and the Brain and Mind Centre found businesses that invested in workplace health promotions could reap a return of more than $4 for every $1 invested by cutting absenteeism and improving productivity.
I am not surprised with these statistics and I find while awareness of the mental health burden on the workplace is very high, too few workplaces are stepping up and addressing the issue.
Our business offer resilience and accountability programs, including mental health first aid courses, showing people and organisations “proactive and preventative” approaches to psychological and physical well-being. I pitch these programs to some businesses and they say ‘we’d love to, talk to me next month’, but that keeps rolling into the next month and the month after that. The lip service paid to mental health is exactly that.
Thankfully we have some forward-thinking employers we work with that are seeing the benefits of incorporating education and training for their workers. Resilience is something that can be learnt and developed, to help keep people psychologically healthy at work. Employee assistance programs are great, but they’re not nearly as effective as giving people the skills and strategies to cope themselves.