Australia is facing many workplace challenges, not least of which is employee mental health.

The World Health Organisation has forecast that depression will become the leading contributor to the global burden of disease by 2030.

It makes good sense, both financially and ethically, to monitor and address the mental health of your workforce.  Having a mentally well workplace is advantageous in all aspects of a business including boosting productivity, reducing absence and retaining good quality staff.

Former Prime Minister and Beyond Blue chair, Julia Gillard, recently addressed the CEDA’s State of the Nation Summit.  Speaking out about the deep impact on our workforce and highlighting the economic and personal cost of mental ill health.  “Eight million working days are lost due to mental ill-health in Australia each year”, Ms Gillard told the conference in Canberra.

So, where do you start? Leaders, managers and all employees need to have access to training to understand their own mental health and the mental health of those around them.  For leaders and managers, this knowledge needs to extend to understanding not only how to address mental health in workplaces but also how to prevent mental ill health being caused by or worsened by workplaces.  Owners, leaders and managers must understand the relevance of placing mental health on an equal footing with physical health, starting at the recruitment and induction stage.

Risk factors in workplaces that negatively affect your workforce or may lead to mental ill health is often set in the culture of the environment.   This includes:

  • Working long hours for long periods of time
  • Unrealistic targets and deadlines
  • Heavy workloads
  • Little or no support
  • Unclear role definitions and measurement of success
  • Toxic workplace – bullying or discrimination

Steps to create a mentally well workplace:

  1. Find out what’s going on – speak to your employees and managers at all levels of your business. Where are the negative stressors? Where are the risk factors (based on prevalence/incidence).  What are the cost implications?
  2. Mental Health Policy – consult with employees and managers at all levels to develop and implement a dedicated Mental Health Policy. The policy should include concerns, risks, evaluation and outcomes.
  3. Education – mental health training for all employees, including Mental Health Induction Mental Health First Aid training – a Mental Health First Aider for every Physical First Aider in the workplace
  4. Open conversations – wherever you’re talking about physical health, wellbeing, absences, workplace culture or finance you should be talking about the mental health of your workforce. Mental health should be a standard agenda item at all levels of the business.
  5. Provide employees with good working conditions – fair pay and job security, employee consultation and representation, clarity around job roles, zero tolerance of bulling and harassment.


Tina Winchester

Director of Mental Health – Mentally Well Workplaces

Principal Master Mental Health First Aid Instructor