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Businesses to gain from workplace mental health

The Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace: Return on Investment Analysis report ? which was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers in conjunction with non-profit organisation beyondblue ? examined how employee mental health conditions impact on productivity, participation and compensation claims across a variety of Australian businesses and industries. 
It found that these conditions cost Australian employers at least $10.9 billion per year, with $4.7 billion lost on absenteeism, $6.1 billion lost in ?presenteeism?, which refers to when an employee is at work but is not being productive, and $146 million lost in compensation claims. 
While the quarrying industry was not specifically addressed in the report, the research found that mining businesses could stand to gain significantly more than the average Australian business when investing in effective workplace mental health strategies. The report claimed that mining businesses would receive an average return of $5.70 for every $1 invested, whereas the average rate for Australian business was $2.30 for every $1 invested.
Commenting on the findings for the mining industry, beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett said, ?More than one in five Australian mining industry workers (22.7 per cent) has experienced mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety in the past 12 months but sadly too many workplaces still do not realise the importance of their employees? mental health. This report shows that employers have a responsibility not only to their workers, but also to their businesses? profitability, to tackle these conditions at work.?
Mental health in the quarry industry
Brian Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Newcastle?s School of Medicine and Public Health, agreed that addressing mental health issues in the workplace is critically important, especially for industries like quarrying that involve a lot of high risk physical activity. 
?The work might be both physically and emotionally demanding, and if concentration is reduced or if fatigue is a problem ? both can occur when people are stressed, anxious or depressed ? this can lead to safety concerns,? he explained.
Depression, stress and anxiety can also develop after a person returns to work after an injury. Kelly added, ?We encourage people to not only think about physical rehabilitation but also the emotional and mental health side of recovering from an injury.?
Kelly told Quarry that in male-dominated industries such as quarrying there are often ?barriers to men talking openly about their personal difficulties?, saying that they could feel weak or like a failure, and fear being put down by their peers?. He added that  people in these industries are not inclined to ask how their fellow workers are feeling either and should be encouraged to foster a positive attitude towards discussing mental health. 
?Those conversations can be very important in getting the support and right level of help for people suffering from mental health problems,? Kelly explained. ?It can even be a simple piece of advice such as suggesting they see their GP or counsellor, or that they use the employee assistance program.
?Their problems might not even be related to work, they may be experiencing difficulties at home but the level of support available in the workplace can help with how people cope with those problems at home. So people need to be encouraged to talk about these things, and to be comfortable with asking how their co-workers are going and giving them support during difficult times,? Kelly said.
Taking initiative
Following the report?s release, beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance jointly launched the national ?Heads Up? campaign, which aims to advise both large and small businesses on mental health in the workplace. 
Through the new initiative, business executives can find out where they may be losing money due to a lack of sufficient support for employee mental health and sign up to learn the best ways to address these issues and improve the mental health and profitability of their organisation. From mid-June, they will also be able to develop customised mental health plans ? or ?action plans? ? through the campaign website. 
Georgie Harman, the CEO of beyondblue, said that Heads Up would have a long-lasting impact that would deliver benefits to both employees and employers.
?Employers who are mindful of their employees? wellbeing and introduce supporting policies promote greater worker satisfaction and deliver enormous productivity improvements, making it a truly win-win situation,? she said. ?Employers who do not promote good mental health miss out on the benefits that it can bring, but adopting Heads Up can help to change that.?
Harman said that while improving mental health in the workplace is everyone?s responsibility, it?s the employers that need to take the lead. ?Heads Up is a cutting-edge campaign and I look forward to beyondblue assisting employers to realise that good mental health is just as important as good physical health and safety in the workplace,? she said. 
The full report is available at the Heads Up campaign website
Source: beyondblue, University of Newcastle

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