Mental Health in Workplace Health and Safety

The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020, Mental Illness will be the leading cause of illness and subsequent loss of revenue in the first world. We do not have to allow this to take place.

Each individual, workplace and community must step up to ensure a turn around in this outcome. For more information contact

According to Workcover statistics Manual Handling injuries cost $224 million dollars in Australia in 2004/05, Occupational Overuse claims were $29.7 million and Mental Disorder claims cost $91.6 million. This equates to 36% of these claims, plus one must add into this the number of manual handling injuries that occurred as a consequence of stress and mental illness.

Laws pertaining to Mental Health as an WHS issue are changing around the country. While they are different in each state, it does not change the fact that the safest environment is the most productive and contented environment.

Fay and Raylee Taylor were speakers at the Glen Inness Conference Fay spoke on Mental Health in the Workplace and community and Raylee on suicide prevention, 2006

When Mental Health is seen as an integral part of WHS less physical accidents take place, there is a great decrease in sick days taken by staff, insurance premiums are decreased and productivity is increased.

Many people with mental illness who are able to be open about their condition and are supported in the workplace take less days off work than people who do not have mental illness.

The costs to the workplace

Depression alone is estimated, in economic terms to:
  • Reduce workplace performance by 40%
  • Cost the workplace $9960 per employee who has undiagnosed depression
  • Contribute to the loss of 6 million working days annually
  • Constitute 5.8% of workers compensation claims made in 2003, with an average time off of 96.1 days, compared with 28.9 days for other claims. (While official figures of 2005 have not been released as yet it is expected that these figures will be a great deal higher, some estimations are of 30% increase)
Add to these figures the cost implications of other mental illnesses both diagnosed and undiagnosed.

The following excerpt is from Workplace “Blues”

Evidence is emerging that excessive workloads and long and irregular hours of work are contributing to an increasing number of suicides, to the extent that workplace legal practitioners are predicting a wave of prosecutions against employers for literally working employees to death.

Recent amendments to Work Cover legislation in NSW point to jail terms as possible outcomes in cases where it is proven that principals of firms do not honour their duty of care to provide a safe workplace for all employees.

The Bottom Line

Organizational stress arises over time as a business grows and evolves, and therefore can be insidious and pervasive in eroding work performance.

As depression is a treatable condition early diagnosis and treatment can be more cost-effective than recruitment of new candidates, particularly for key roles.

Failure to deal with the issue of organizational stress and the associated mental health issues, such as depression, in a humane and empathetic manner could ultimately lead to a costly and higher incidence of workplace litigation. (Michael Taylor principal consultant of HMT Consultancy).

Engaging Vision In Mind will allow your work place the best possible opportunity of avoiding the difficult, and possibly tragic events pertaining to mental illness and stress which can take place in a workplace. We guarantee you will never have experienced education and motivation in the workplace like this before! Your managers and staff will experience a life changing event which will lead to great improvements in lives and workplace outcomes.

Dealing with the issues not just the symptoms

Unfortunately the past decades have seen a marked increase in the expectations of managers and employees in the workplace. This pressure can lead to individual, family and organizational stress. Stress and mental illness in the workplace can and must be managed with proactive, sustainable and visionary processes and outcomes. If this is done, productivity, customer service, the quality of mental and physical health and individuals lives are improved. All too often Fay Jackson, CEO of Vision In Mind, has witnessed managers and employees wasting time, money and quality of outcomes and lives by chasing solutions to symptoms rather than the solutions to the issues, the root causes, which underpin stress and mental illness in the workplace.

People who experience undiagnosed mental illness and stress are at an increased risk of not managing their lives and work well. Very often this lack of insight and responsibility may also lead to drug and alcohol issues.

Research has shown a strong link between stress, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, poor physical health and increase in accidents in the workplace and community.

It is important to note that all of the concerns mentioned pertain not only to the individual who has a mental health issue but also to their carers and families. Therefore the productivity of a carer or family member and their quality of life may also be affected if there is a loved one at home who is experiencing mental illness.

The HR issues involved with mental illness and stress are enormous. The business manager of one Australian airport revealed to Fay that mental illness was the leading cause of all stress, conflicts, sick leave, loss of quality employees etc. THIS DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE CASE.

Another company was at risk of loosing their biggest client and being sued for breach of contract, loss of income etc which would have amounted to in excess of 10s of millions of dollars and essentially destroying the company leading to hundreds of positions being lost. Fay was able to recognize the root cause of the problems taking place. With a minimum of education and the design of proactive policies solutions were arrived at within a week. The contract has continued and quality outcomes and lives have been achieved.

The costs to the quality of life for individuals and the community from mental illness and stress of course cannot be accurately assessed, however it is certain that this is great as the World Health Organization quotes moderate depression as being as debilitating as chronic asthma or diabetes, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as disabling as paraplegia and unmanaged schizophrenia as disabling as quadriplegia.

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