Today is World Mental Health Day – a day which falls in National Mental Health Month, encouraging us all to look at mental health in a more positive light with the promise of reducing stigma. And yes, that means you too, employers.
The cost of mental health stigma
One in five Australians are affected by mental illness annually and 45% of Australians have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. With those figures in mind, it’s safe to say that the majority of Australian businesses already employ people with mental ill-health.
But because of stigma, employers are often oblivious to the presence of mental ill-health among their prospective and existing staff. The stigma and stereotypes around having a mental health condition is why the large majority of job seekers and employees feeling the need to hide their mental health condition – for fear of judgement and discrimination.
Employers are paying the price of this stigma, often unaware of the hidden costs of not supporting these people. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), untreated mental health conditions are costing Australian workplaces around $11 billion per year, mostly through absenteeism, presenteeism (reduced productivity at work) and compensation claims.
Then there’s the human cost of stigma. In some cases, mental health stigma can exacerbate existing conditions, leading to suicidal ideation, substance abuse and even further social isolation. This can create a vicious cycle of knock-on effects for the person’s whole household, having their family members left feeling helpless, overwhelmed and in-turn potentially bringing about a whole new cycle of the mental health issues. Physical side-effects can also be provoked by mental ill-health, such as stomach problems like IBS, ulcers and skin rashes/irritations to name a few.
Benefits of mentally healthy workplaces to employers
The needs of employers wanting reliable staff and job seekers wanting a supportive employer can co-exist. There is serious incentive for employers to make it happen, with PwC estimating that there could be an average $2.30 benefit to businesses for every dollar spent on investing in “mentally healthy” workplaces.
Then there’s the widely acknowledged benefits of hiring people with disability (including people with mental health conditions). These include higher staff engagement and retention, greater productivity, less time off and enhanced brand reputation.
Embracing a mentally healthy workplace also increases an employer’s talent pool because it makes employers more open about hiring people with mental health issues. About 40 per cent of participants seeking work through Disability Employment Services list a psychiatric disorder (mental health condition) as their primary disability. When taking secondary disability and unreported and undiagnosed mental health issues into account, the true figure is much higher. These people represent is untapped potential.
When employers take more inclusive approaches to recruitment and looking after the mental health of their staff, they are able to better support their workforce and get the best from them. They save money that would have otherwise been lost on undisclosed and unsupported mental health issues and benefit from all of the positive flow-on effects of a diverse workforce.
Benefits of mentally health workplaces to job seekers and employees
By creating more mentally healthy workplaces, people with mental ill-health are able to see more people like them, feel more open to managing and talking about their condition in the workplace, and making known what kind of support they need from their employer. This sets them up to find the right kind of supportive, meaningful employment.
When people with mental health conditions enter sustained, meaningful employment, their lives and the lives of their friends and families improve. The World Health Organisation also says that they are actually more likely to see improvements to their mental health.
Employment opens up people’s lives. Being accepted and to have the opportunity to feel normal and not put into a box is the biggest standout benefit. Other benefits of employment include increased self-worth, social inclusion, financial stability and even just the ability to have a decent roof over their head again or a hot meal on the table every night.
It’s time we challenge mental health stigma for everyone’s benefit.
CoAct and our Service Partners are a leading Disability Employment Services provider. We’re here to educate, but more than anything, we’re here to support everyone in finding the right fit for them – both employer and job seeker.
Job search support with your mental health in mind
The team at CoAct understands how difficult it can be to find and keep a job if you are living with mental ill-health. We specialise in working with you to support you through these challenges so that you can find a job that suits your needs.
We provide you with the mentoring, training support and guidance you need to thrive at work. We also work closely with employers across Australia to ensure people with mental health conditions are supported the workplace, meaning you’re set up to succeed from the start.
Tailored workforce solutions that meet your business needs
If you’re an employer wanting to know how embrace more inclusive approaches to recruitment and support your staff’s mental health needs, we can help. Through the government-funded Disability Employment Services, CoAct’s local Service Partners can help businesses build sustainable, inclusive workforces and navigate the various government funding available.