Mental Health at Work – A growing concern

Mental health at work - A growing concern by Jodie Cooper

Mental health is a growing concern in Australian Workplaces (Bailey & Dollard, 2019). With one in five Australian adults report experiencing a mental health issue each year (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009), an opportunity exists for Australian organisations to find practical solutions to improve mental health at work.

Individuals reporting high levels of mental health at work demonstrate improved work performance, better physical health and enhanced social relationships (Davenport, Allisey, Page, LaMontagne, & Reavley, 2016). Pathways and interventions to reach these high levels of metal health in the workplace are still lacking in the average small Australian organisation.

What is mental health?

Mental health is defined as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community (W.H.O., 2014). In contrast, the term flourishing, will be reserved for individuals experiencing significantly high levels of mental health and wellbeing (Keyes, 2007).

The cost of mental health to Australian business

The cost of mental health to Australian business is significant (Harvey et al., 2014). Psychological injury claims continue to increase (Safe Work Australia, 2017) and in 2014, an estimated $11 billion was lost due to absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims (PwC & Beyond Blue, 2014). On average, for every dollar invested in a mental health initiative, organisations see a return of $2.30. Smaller organisations can see returns of up to 15% (PwC & Beyond Blue, 2014), building a strong economic case for their investment into mental health initiatives.

Australian organisations have been identified as an appropriate and relevant setting to address the mental health challenge, yet many businesses still lack the knowledge or resources to address the issue effectively (Beyond Blue, 2014). Approximately 33% of staff report they are “too busy” to act on mental health and only 15% of leaders are proactively encouraging good mental health practices (Superfriend, 2018). The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance recognises these challenges and believe workplaces hold the potential to improve mental health outcomes; and once unlocked, the social and economic benefits will be profound (The Mentally Healthly Workplace Allience, 2019).

Keyes (2007) argues that mental health should be promoted as flourishing and the aim of my business is to support organisations to positively impact mental health in the workplace.


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing:. Canberra: ABS.

Beyond Blue. (2014). State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia. Canberra: TNS Social Research.

Keyes, C. (2007). Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing. American Psychologist, 95 – 108.

Safe Work Australia. (2017). Compendium of Workers’ Compensation Statistics Australia. Canberra: Safe Work Australia.

Superfriend. (2018). Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey. Melbourne: Superfriend.

The Mentally Healthly Workplace Allience. (2019). Productivity Commission Inquiry. Canberra.