Addressing the stigma of mental health in the workplace

Promoting mental health in the workplace benefits everyone; we all have a role to play in looking after our own mental health and in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Brief snapshot of mental illness in Australia

  • In each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness.
  • About 4% of people will experience a major depressive episode in a 12-month period, with 5% of women and 3% of men affected.
  • Approximately 14 % of Australians will be affected by an anxiety disorder in any 12-month period.
  • About 3% of Australians are affected by psychotic illness; such as schizophrenia, where there is a loss of contact with reality during episodes of illness.
  • Prevalence of mental illness decreases with age, with prevalence greatest among 18-24 year olds.
  • Many violent people have no history of mental disorder and most people with mental illness (90%) have no history of violence.

Mindframe Media Facts & Stats

With these facts in mind it becomes increasingly important for employers to understand and support their employees and to consider that the people they employ are likely to have experienced mental illness at some point.

How Community-minded Organisations like CHESS Help

CHESS founded in 1995 and based on the mid and north Coast of NSW supports employers and assists people experiencing mental illness into meaningful and lasting employment. We do this through integrating the services we deliver:

  • Disability Employment Services
  • Vocational Intervention Service -supporting people with Brain Injury back to work
  • Partners in Recovery
  • Personal Helpers and Mentors

We employ employment industry experts, mental health workers, mental health peer workers, allied health professionals and rehabilitation counsellors. Our integrated model ensures that the people we work with have access to the right information and industry experts who provide an ethical professional and high quality service.

The Case for having a Mentally Healthy Workplace

Businesses that actively promote good mental health attract and retain top talent because they’re great places to work. By supporting people with mental health conditions and encouraging openness, employers create diverse and inclusive workplaces.

  • Untreated mental health conditions cost Australian employers $10.9 billion every year through absenteeism, reduced productivity and compensation claims.
  • A mentally unhealthy workplace fosters poor morale and staff engagement, high staff turnover and potential penalties for breaches of work health and safety legislation.

Headsup.org Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace

The benefits of employing a person with Mental Illness in your workplace

People with disability—just like all employees—bring a range of skills and abilities to the workplace, and can strengthen your business through a more diverse, inclusive and stable workforce. – Australian Network on Disability

Here are just some of the benefits:

  • For an employer, it can help to bring a person with unique skills, abilities and talents into the organisation; it can also have positive effects on productivity and team morale.
  • Often a person experiencing mental illness with their extensive experience of problem solving brings a different perspective to resolution – different perspectives are exactly what breed innovation, something we all look for.
  • The challenges and setbacks experienced by people with disability and mental illness foster greater resilience often characterised by a high degree of dedication and commitment to their role.
  • On average, employing people with Mental illness and disability does not cost any more than employing people without disability. Assistance with the cost of making workplace adjustments is available through the Australian Government funded Employment Assistance Fund (EAF).

CHESS provides free Disability Employment Services funded through the Federal Government. Our highly skilled employment experts support and only refer a person who has a well managed mental health condition to a position. We support that person in the workplace, as well as providing ongoing support for as long as it is required.

Maintaining a Mentally Healthy Workplace

Everyone has a role to play in creating a mentally healthy workplace, and there are supports available to employers to assist in managing employees who may be experiencing mental illness. CHESS plays its part by being invited (at no cost to the employer) into workplaces to provide support to employees who are at risk. We do this by providing personalised support and guidance and identifying potential modifications to tasks to keep that worker at their current job. The objective is to assist that person to remain at their job and assists employers to retain valuable staff rather than go through the time and cost of hiring and training someone new.

For more information on eligibility for CHESS Job in Jeopardy Assistance – contact us

  • To be eligible for Job in Jeopardy Assistance, the worker must be an Australian resident, aged 14 -65 years, and have been employed for at least eight hours a week on average over the last 13 weeks.
  • The worker will have a health or medical condition, whether physical or psychological, which impacts their ability to do their job and places them at risk of losing their job.

CHESS can provide free training and information to existing workers and employers by providing resources for taking care of yourself and others in the workplace. We can also help employers and jobseekers access a range of other financial supports and incentives, such as assistive technology, mental health first aid training and disability and deafness awareness training, Auslan interpreting and wage subsidies.

For more information on the free services to help you employ people with disability visit the JobSearch website.

CHESS is an accredited provider of Return to Work services through the NSW State Insurance Regulatory Authority and have trained and professional workers ready to help injured workers recover at work following a work related injury or illness.

Together we can build informed and inclusive workplaces that understand and openly address the subject of mental illness,

Amanda is the Executive Manager Business Development for CHESS Employment working to progress initiatives and opportunities to support growth and diversification. With a background in Social Science, Amanda came to Australia 20 years ago having worked with refugees in Sudan and at a welfare clinic in Malawi, Southern Africa.