Supportive workplaces key to good mental health

Health Care

Though Australia sits quite high in most aspects on the OECD Better Life Index, we fall in the area of work/life balance.

Work and mental health was a key topic of discussion at a recent meeting of international mental health commissioners held in Sydney, hosted by the National Mental Health Commission.

Gregor Henderson, an international advisor on mental health and wellbeing, facilitated the meeting and believes Australia needs a cultural shift to convince people they need good mental health.

Despite the fact that at least 70 percent of people say they have had someone close to them deal with a mental health problem, mental health remains a taboo topic, particularly in the workplace.

Henderson says employers can play a key role in improving the mental health statistics by providing comfortable environments where employees with poor mental health can thrive.

The OECD’s mental health and work review found that most people with mental disorders and in work, and many more want to work.

On average, the employment rate of people with mental disorders across the OECD is about 55-70 percent, up to 15 percent lower than for people without a mental disorder. Though many people with disorders want to work, they’re typically twice as likely twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disorders.

Henderson says that rather than just giving struggling employees time off, it can often be more helpful to keep them in the workplace, as people recover better when they’re at work and are stimulated by social connection.

Employers can take four steps to ensure the mental wellbeing of their workplace.

They must promote mental wellbeing, examine and diminish factors in the workplace that may lead or contribute to stress and poor mental health, support employees with problems, and provide opportunities for employment to people recovering from mental health issues.

Henderson says that the best workplaces are those that encourage social connections between employees, rather than having each person shut off in their own corner of the office or cubicle.

Employers can also put in place different practices and policies to combat poor mental health, such as anti-bullying policies.

The most important thing to remember, Henderson says, is that the vast majority of people dealing with mental health problems can and do recover with the appropriate treatment and support, and employers have an important role to play.

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