You can manage mental health in your workplace just as you do any other hazard.
The cost of poor mental health
Poor psychological safety costs Australian business $6 billion each year in lost productivity. This is because work-related mental health conditions (such as stress) typically require 3 times more time off work than other injuries.
The causes of mental health injuries
Mental health injuries can be caused by:
- excessive time pressures, unreasonable deadlines
- poorly managed organisational change and support
- conflict between people, harassment and bullying
- exposure to occupational violence and aggression.
- 90% of serious work-related mental health condition claims are due to work-related mental stress
- work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying and work pressure are the most significant causes of work-related mental health issues. Together, they account for over 60% of serious mental health claims in Tasmania
- each mental health injury claim results in an incapacity of over 60 days absence from work.
In Tasmania, health care and social assistance workers reported the most mental health injuries in 2018. Nationally, the occupations most at risk are defence force members, fire fighters and police, followed by school teachers.
If you’re a person conducting a business or undertaking, you have a duty to ensure the health and safety of your workers, and this includes their mental health and safety.
You can prevent work contributing to workers becoming ill by taking preventative action and intervening early.
Just as you do with a physical hazard, you should:
- identify what could cause mental harm in your workplace and assess how severe the risks are
- take steps to eliminate and control these risks.
Identify and assess
- Talk to workers. They know what causes them mental harm — and most likely have ideas about how to most effectively address the dangers to their mental health.
- Review incident reports, absenteeism, requests for transfers or resignations.
- Look at workplace factors. These can include schedules, demands and deadlines, job security, technological or organisation change, resourcing. Leadership styles can also contribute to stress.
- Look for early warning signs such as uncharacteristic behaviour, and workplace conflict.
- Consider any vulnerable workers: for example, someone who has contact with the public, with little control over their work, or whose skills don’t match the job they’re doing.
- Review and address the workplace factors you identify in your workplace.
- Provide training to help workers better cope with work or changing technologies.
- Provide training to your managers so they take a less demanding, more positive and supportive approach to managing their workers.
- Consider a workplace wellbeing program to help maintain their personal health and to address stress and resilience.
If you’re experiencing work-related mental harm
- Tell your manager. If you know what is causing it, ask to work together to address this.
- Talk to others in your workplace for support, such as your health and safety representative or union representative.
- Talk to others outside work for support: family and friends, your doctor, or a professional counsellor.
- Maintain your personal health as best you can. Exercise regularly, eat healthily, get good sleep, and try not to rely on caffeine, drugs or alcohol to cope. Remember to do the things you enjoy. It may sound obvious or flippant, but these actions you can take to look after yourself should not be underestimated.
2019 Safety is Everything campaign
In mid-2019 the Safety is Everything campaign was launched as an initiative of the WorkCover Tasmania Board and WorkSafe Tasmania. The campaign contributed to:
- promoting awareness of mental health hazards in the workplace
- de-stigmatising mental health conditions in the workplace
- improving mental health awareness within the Tasmanian community.
There were three different television advertisements (supported by print versions), focussing on a mental health scenario in different industries: financial and insurance services, public administration, and health care and social assistance. These industries are where mental stress is a common cause of injury and where mental conditions are a priority condition and cause, as identified in WorkSafe Tasmania’s Strategic Plan 2018-2023 (PDF, 1.3 MB). You can find these resources below.
Mental health awareness campaign poster (PDF, 244.7 KB) (request an A3 printed copy by contacting us)
Safety is everything campaign TV commercials