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Workplaces urged to acknowledge Australian mental health crisis

The cost to the economy of mental ill-health and suicide sits between $43 and $51 billion per year, a draft government report has revealed, stressing the need for businesses to acknowledge and tackle mental health issues in the workplace.

Workplaces urged to acknowledge Australian mental health crisis
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  • Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
  • January 10, 2020
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The Mental Health Draft Report, compiled by the government’s Productivity Commission, revealed that aside from the direct cost of mental ill-health and suicide on the economy, there is an approximately $130 billion cost associated with diminished health and reduced life expectancy for those living with mental ill-health.

Additionally, estimates for the cost of workplace absenteeism and presenteeism due to mental ill-health range from $13 billion a year up to $17 billion a year, with 70-80 per cent of this cost attributed to absenteeism.

The report noted that as with physical ill-health, the costs of mental ill-health go beyond just the immediate loss in activity of the person concerned, but also extend to impacts on the productivity of their work colleagues.

Responding to the report’s finding, not-for-profit AccessEAP called on workplaces across Australia to take a stance against mental ill-health, explaining that while diseases and physical conditions tend to affect older generations, mental ill-health inhibits working lives, limiting the ability to secure and retain employment.

According to the organisation, there are four main job-related factors that exacerbate psychological conditions, including: job demand and control, caused by a lack of control over highly cognitively and/or emotionally demanding jobs; a perceived imbalance between effort and rewards; job insecurity; and exposure to trauma.

“Businesses need to be mindful of the impact they have on employees’ mental wellbeing through the job itself, workplace culture and organisational support including recognition, stigma and the physical environment. Employers should also support employees in the workplace and with external stressors, such personal issues and lifestyle needs,” AccessEAP said.

It urged employers to create an open dialogue around mental illness, free from stigma and fear of discrimination.

The organisation also suggested that work can also be a solution, noting that there are strong two-way links between employment and mental health, as it can provide a sense of identity, purpose, life satisfaction, increased social connection and regular opportunities to communicate with people.

“It is important for people to be able to stay in work while they deal with any psychological issues, if their workplace does not contribute to the condition,” it said.

The Productivity Commission's draft report on mental health can be found at www.pc.gov.au and submissions for the final report are currently being taken. 

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