It’s an issue gaining momentum, and business is starting to recognise that a safe workplace is more than just the physical environment.
Launched today by the National Mental Health Commission, the brand new Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance brings together the biggest names in small and large business, the mental health sector and government to kick-start an overdue conversation.
National Mental Health Commissioner Sam Mostyn told Dynamic Business that while Australian businesses have addressed the physical health requirements of workplaces, it has been slow to respond to the more insidious issue of mental health at work.
Part of the reason for this, Mostyn said, is that as a community, we simply haven’t understood how to handle mental health issues.
The purpose of the alliance is to provide the business sector with practical guidance around how to handle this often-awkward subject.
Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, cited research from SANE Australia which found mental illness costs the Australian economy over $20 billion a year. What’s more, the same research also found that the majority of people feel unsupported when mentally unwell, and less than half of managers (43 per cent) have an understanding of mental illness.
Fels said his hope for the Alliance is that it will assist Australian businesses in taking active steps to create mentally healthy workplaces, and fully realise the benefits to individuals, businesses and the community. “With almost half of Australians likely to experience a mental illness in their lifetime, the importance of having mentally healthy workplaces cannot be overstated,” Fels said.
Jennifer Westacott, Chair of the Mental Health Council of Australia, and CEO of the Business Council of Australia added that providing a mentally healthy workplace shouldn’t be seen as ‘something additional’.
The alliance is a true joint venture between business groups, (including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Business Council of Australia (BCA), and the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia) universities and the public and private sectors.
The Australian Psychological Society, beyondblue, the Black Dog Institute, the Mental Health Council of Australia, Safe Work Australia and SANE Australia are all on board to form the collaborative resource.
As part of the project, the Alliance needs the input of all Australian businesses in order to assemble its best practice guide. The Call for Good Practice is open to all business until 28 July at workplacementalhealth.com.au and will help inform the development of practical resources for businesses to be released later in the year. It will also complement the Alliance’s two other major projects:
- research by the University of New South Wales into evidence-based actions which contribute to creating mentally healthy workplaces; and
- a report by PwC on the return on investment for creating mentally healthy workplaces.