A new integrated approach to better manage mental health in Australian workplaces has been developed in a bid to help businesses and organisations and the people who work in them.
To date, research shows current efforts are largely disconnected, ad hoc and focused on individual workplaces, rather than on achieving systemic and sustainable change.
Data shows 45% of Australians aged between 16-85 years will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.
In the workplace, one in five Australian employees are likely to be affected by a mental health condition in a 12 month period.
An integrated approach to workplace mental health: Nine priorities for implementation in Australia is a white paper produced by the University of Tasmania’s Work, Health and Wellbeing Network in collaboration with national and international researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
The paper points to the need for an integrated approach which encompasses three key areas – preventing harm, promoting the positive and responding to illness.
Three priorities for each key area have been identified to guide employers about ways in which they can achieve a positive impact on employee mental health outcomes.
For example, a preventing harm initiative could include developing emotional and social intelligence for leaders and managers.
“There has been a lot of work in the past five to 10 years focused on developing awareness around mental health issues,” Angela Martin, Adjunct Professor with the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics said.
Mental health carries a significant economic cost for Australian workplaces, estimated around $10.9 billion a year.
Professor Martin led the development of the white paper and said workplaces played a vital role in creating positive change.
“However, despite all the information that is out there, it can be overwhelming for organisations to know where to start,” she said.
“We wanted to provide a framework for action that sets out key priorities for Australian workplaces.”
The paper is the result of a workshop hosted by the Network last year and attended by researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
International authority on workplace mental health and Director of the Centre for Population Health Research at Deakin University Professor Tony LaMontagne said a new strategy was needed to help manage mental health in the workplace.
“We framed this workshop around our notion of an integrated approach that distils what’s required to address workplace mental health into three things: protecting people from work-related harms, promoting the positive aspects of work, and addressing mental health problems as they manifest in the work context,” he said.
(Source: University of Tasmania)