Leading Australian businesses say workplace mental health is an issue whose time has come

Apr 20, 2015

More than 100 business leaders met in Melbourne recently, sharing practical ideas for improving the mental health of their workplaces.

“It’s a health and wellbeing issue but it’s also an economic one.”

That’s how Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott has described the issue of mental health in the workplace. Ms Westacott added that “the economic case is inseparable from the social case”.

She was speaking at a workshop in Melbourne on 14 April led by the Diversity Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia and beyondblue. The event was sponsored by Lend Lease and hosted by National Australia Bank (NAB).

The workshop attracted more than 100 leading Australian businesses interested in taking practical steps to reduce the $10.9 billion cost that Australian businesses face annually from ignoring mental health in the workplace.

Heads Up, an initiative of beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, was established in May 2014 to highlight the importance of mentally healthy workplaces and to provide tools and resources to support businesses tackling this important workplace issue.

Citipower and Powercor CEO Tim Rourke also spoke at the event and said his company sought to ensure its staff got satisfaction from their work. “We make sure people enjoy what they are doing and if we do that we build a better business,” he said. Almost half of Powercor’s staff have taken part in mental health awareness sessions; learning how to support each other.

Jetstar System Risk Analyst Ellena Watson confirmed that Jetstar also provides mental health awareness training to all employees and intervention training for managers. A representative from Lend Lease noted that employees in their organisation are trained in recognising signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression and how to support others.

beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman told the workshop that removing stigma and talking openly about mental health in the workplace was crucial. “We need to do everything we can to support a culture of disclosure in the workplace. Unfortunately stigma seems to be a stain on your person,” she said.

NAB’s Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing, Louisa Hudson, presented a case study on NAB’s experiences and strategies and Diversity Council of Australia CEO Lisa Annese also shared her organisation’s insights.

Many of the attending companies committed to signing a Heads Up pledge that outlined the steps they would take to make a difference in their workplaces. This pledge will be returned to the companies in coming months so they can track their progress.

If you're unsure where to begin or need a hand communicating with your employees, check out our Getting started page for tips and templates. 

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Jennifer Westacott signs pledge

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