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Keep your heads up


With untreated mental health conditions costing Australian businesses over $10 billion a year and affecting one in five employees, businesses that ignore mental health in their workplace are missing out on significant gains, according to WorkCover Queensland.

National Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey data shows around one million people in Australia live with depression, while around two million live with anxiety.

beyondblue research has shown that the $10.9 billion annual cost of untreated mental health conditions to Australian business includes:

  • presenteeism (the employee is at work, but not fully productive) costs of $6.1 billion
  • absenteeism costs of $4.7 billion
  • compensation claims of $145.9 million

beyondblue Workplace Engagement Manager Michael O’Hanlon says even if your organisation hasn’t had any workers compensation claims of this nature, people’s untreated mental health conditions still affect your business through absenteeism and presenteeism.

Where psychological claims are lodged in the Queensland mining industry, for example, the average paid days off work and average costs of these claims are double the cost of a physical injury claim.

WorkCover Queensland data shows a substantial difference between the stay at work rate after lodging a psychological claim and the return to work rate after a claim. Both figures are significantly lower than a physical injury claim, with 77 per cent returning to work afterwards (the mining industry average for injured workers returning to work is 90 per cent).

WorkCover Queensland Manager Customer Services Jackie Cumming says mental health issues are of growing concern regardless of whether the mental health condition is work-related or not.

“It’s important that mental health and wellbeing is addressed to ensure that people are able to access the appropriate support at the right time,” says Ms Cumming.

“Some employers in the mining industry have told us they need help in discussing and assisting workers with mental health problems. So we held a mental health forum for 100 employers to give them some tools and resources which can make a difference for their workers.”

One of those tools shared was the beyondblue Heads Up initiative.

The Heads Up website is a one-stop shop on mental health in the workplace. There’s advice on how to create a mentally healthy workplace, and the benefits businesses can expect if they make a commitment to promoting the importance of good mental health to their employees.

“The Heads Up website is a central point online for business and for everyone in the workplace, including leaders, staff and HR. It also recognises that small businesses are different from larger businesses,” says beyondblue’s Michael O’Hanlon.

Information and resources on the Heads Up website include:

  • Creating a mentally healthy workplace
  • Taking care of yourself at work
  • Supporting others in the workplace
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Training and resources.

Organisations can also work on a plan to identify key actions tailored to their business.

Mentally healthy workplaces have a positive workplace culture, minimise workplace risks related to mental health, support people with mental health conditions appropriately, and aim to reduce stigma and discrimination.

And there’s a financial imperative for taking action – for every $1 invested in mental health initiatives, there’s an average return on investment of $2.30, according to research.

“Being mentally healthy is a good for both businesses and workers. It offers improved productivity, safety and return on investment, so why would you say no?” Michael said.

Visit www.headsup.org.au for more information.

“Mentally healthy workplaces have a positive workplace culture, minimise workplace risks related to mental health, support people with mental health conditions appropriately, and aim to reduce stigma and discrimination.”

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