Australia might be the ‘lucky country’, but not when it comes to good workplace culture, according to researchers from the University of South Australia.
Last year alone, 36 million prescriptions for antidepressant medication were issued in Australia – the second highest rate in the developed world, after Iceland.
Prior research estimated the link between work-related stress and antidepressant medication use cost Australia around $212 million per year.
On top of that, stress-related work compensation claims have doubled since 2006, and are now estimated at around $480 million annually.
And global expert on work health and professor at UniSA, Maureen Dollard, believes there’s a deeper link between corporate workplaces and mental illness and medication use.
Dollard said while existing studies largely focus on the role that work pressure, bullying and lack of support play in health and wellbeing, there’s more to it.
“The root cause lies with the corporate culture of a workplace and its commitment to what we call ‘psychosocial safety’ of employees.
“If managers are concerned about work stress and their employees’ psychological health, the work environment will reflect this.
“Job demands will be manageable, work conflicts such as bullying will be avoided or minimised, and resources will be adequate.”
Australians battling mental health issues at work
Diagnoses of depression and anxiety disorders have risen dramatically over the past eight years, research from the Housing Income and Labour Dynamics Survey shows.
And it’s more prevalent in women.
The percentage of women aged 15 to 34 who had been diagnosed with these conditions jumped from 12.8 per cent in 2009 to 20.1 per cent in 2017.
A Beyond Blue study found 21 per cent of Australians had taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy.
And, that rate jumps to 46 per cent among those who consider their workplace to be mentally unhealthy.
It also found those who believed their workplace was mentally unhealthy were unlikely to disclose to their employer if they were experiencing a mental health condition.
What can be done to reduce mental health issues at work?
One way to reduce mental health issues at work is to remove the associated stigma.
NSW mental health consumer advisory group, Being, has called for Australia to have a new public holiday in order to recognise sick days for mental health.
“If someone gets food poisoning or the flu, or has any physical health issues, employers encourage that person to be off work,” Being chief Irene Gallagher said.
“But if someone suffers depression, anxiety or becomes so mentally exhausted that they can’t get out of bed, a lack of support for mental health sick days means they need to hide their mental health so they can take time to hit the reset button.
“Invariably they slink back to work full of unwarranted guilt.”
Being said World Mental Health Day, which is on October 10, should be made a public holiday in Australia from 2020.
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