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Work causes or exacerbates mental health issues

Work is causing or exacerbating mental ill-health for one in five Australians, according to new research.

The survey by Superfriend, a national mental health organisation that partners with the superannuation and insurance industries, found that: one in two Australian workers have experienced a mental health condition43% of those workers report their workplace caused or made it worse, and healthcare and public sector workers are the most stressed The results also showed clear benefits for organisations that invest in targeted mental health initiatives such as training and support for flexible work arrangements.

Ten thousand workers were surveyed for the annual Indicators of a Thriving Workplace poll, which measures the current state of mental health and wellbeing in Australian workplaces against a desired state.

The 2019 national workplace mental health and wellbeing index score was 62.7 out of 100, steady from the previous year.

The survey found that nearly half of all Australian workers are either currently experiencing or have previously experienced a mental health condition. Of those, 43% report their workplaces either caused or aggravated their condition.

Despite increasing public dialogue on workplace mental health, 57% of workers don’t believe their employer has committed to any tangible actions to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Only 15% of the Australian workforce claim to be receiving solid workplace support to effectively integrate work, family and general life commitments, with those who don’t more likely to find their work ‘really stressful’.

Commenting on the findings, SuperFriend CEO, Margo Lydon said: “There is increasing attention on workplace mental health, especially with the Productivity Commission’s draft report quantifying the cost of poor mental health in the workplace at $17 billion a year, making up a huge part of the estimated $51 billion overall cost of mental ill-health and suicide.”

Red flags

The survey found that workers in healthcare and public administration are experiencing the highest levels of stress, at 30% and 28.1% respectively, more than any other industry.

Healthcare workers also experience the highest levels of workplace violence (16.8%) and second-highest levels of bullying (28.6%).

The incidence of workers whose current workplace caused their mental health conditions is double among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers (30.2% vs 15.7%).

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are having a much tougher time at work than others, with significantly higher numbers of workers claiming to have personally experienced toxic behaviours and attitudes such as bullying, sexual assault, discrimination, and stigma,” noted Ms. Lydon.

Further, one in four older workers (55-64 years) with experience of a mental health condition report that it was caused by their current workplace, higher than any other age cohort.

Training and education are crucial

According to the report, the biggest barrier to achieving thriving workplaces is seen to be a lack of appropriate skills amongst managers.

Only 12.5% of workers (one in eight) claim to have a workplace culture that encourages open discussion, with evidence that where a workplace has received education on mental health and wellbeing, this number dramatically improves to approximately 50%.

“Australian workers recognise the benefits for employers of investing in mental health and wellbeing and want to see their employers taking action,” added Ms. Lydon.

“They are looking to their business leaders to create a culture of care that enables workers to be productive and bring their best self to work.”

The Indicators of a Thriving Workplace survey was completed online by more than 10,000 working Australians in July and August 2019 across a broad range of industries, roles, and locations.

SuperFriend works with ‘profit to member’ superannuation funds to promote and support improved mental health and wellbeing for their members, through the workplace. Through these partnerships, SuperFriend has access to more than half of Australia’s workplaces.

This article was first published on www.hradvanceprofessional.com.au and was written by Catherine Ngo.

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