Recent research conducted by Wysa, a global mental health support provider, reveals a concerning trend in mental health among working-age Australians. The study, titled ‘All Worked Up’ Australia, surveyed 2000 Australians aged 16 to 65 and indicates that one in three individuals in this demographic is grappling with symptoms of moderate to severe depression or anxiety. These numbers surpass the figures reported in the 2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study, which found 16.8% living with an anxiety disorder and 7.5% with depression.
Long-term impact of COVID-19 on mental health
Sharon Lawn, a Professor at Flinders University, College of Medicine and Public Health, suggests that the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic play a significant role in these alarming statistics. The disruption caused by the pandemic has not only affected people’s personal lives but has also left a lasting impact on their work. Lawn emphasises that the current period, compounded by increases in home mortgage rates, creates a time of unprecedented flux.
Wellbeing, talent retention, and productivity in the workplace
Lawn underscores the crucial role organisations play in supporting employees facing mental health challenges. She argues that employers need to acknowledge the importance of employees’ wellbeing, asserting that a compassionate and understanding approach can yield benefits in terms of talent retention and productivity. The professor, who also serves on the Board of Mental Health Australia, advocates for employers to prioritise the mental health of their workforce.
Building a supportive workplace culture and structure
To assist employees dealing with mental health issues, Lawn recommends that organisations focus on building a strong team structure and culture. She emphasises the need for managers and supervisors to adopt a pastoral role, understanding the needs and workloads of their team members. Lawn asserts that accommodating employees’ needs leads to better performance and productivity.
Training for managerial roles in mental health support
Recognising the importance of managerial skills in supporting mental health, Lawn advocates for specific training for individuals in leadership positions. She highlights that promoting someone based solely on their tenure in a workplace does not guarantee the necessary skills for managing people effectively. According to Lawn, having the skills to address mental health concerns is as crucial as understanding the business aspects of an organisation.
Destigmatising mental health issues in the workplace
Lawn concludes by emphasising the need to create workplace cultures where mental health issues are destigmatised. She draws attention to instances where fear of jeopardising career prospects hinders individuals from discussing mental health openly. Lawn cites examples of effective destigmatisation efforts in organisations where leaders are open about their own struggles, fostering a culture of inclusivity and understanding.