White Card Update: Examining the Importance of a Mental Health Plan

Employers should never underestimate the importance of a mental health plan in a workplace to enhance productivity, avoid a high attrition rate and reduce absenteeism which costs Australian businesses billions of dollars every year.

Some encouraging news recently came to light regarding construction workplaces and mental health of workers. According to a national survey commissioned by the mental health charity beyondblue, construction sites are actually among the most caring places to work in Oz.

It may surprise you to hear that construction workers are the most likely to work in a mentally healthy environment, because construction sites seem like such macho and rugged places but in reality construction workers feel their workplaces are mentally healthy.

The survey found that agricultural and public administration workers are least likely to feel like their work environment is mentally healthy.

The beyondblue survey also revealed that in geographical terms workplaces in Western Australia are the most mentally healthy. Workplaces in Queensland tend to be the least healthy when it comes to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

The results of the survey were released as part of the launch of a new program, a free online guide for business to help them create their own mental health plan. The website headsup.org.au is meant to serve as tool for employers to develop mental health plans in the workplace.

Although we commonly stress the importance of addressing health and safety issues on a construction site, we do not commonly discuss the importance of including mental health attention in this process. Mental health is as important as physical health and experts agree that our mental health has an effect on our physical wellbeing.

Anxiety, fear and depression have all been linked to ill health and mental health issues also result in increased levels of absenteeism and loss of productivity.

According to the beyondblue commissioned survey at least 50 per cent of employees do not find their own work place mentally healthy. It also showed that one in five people have taken time off work in the past year because of mental health issues.

Some of the aspects of a mentally healthy workplace according to the survey include supportive and caring managers and flexible working hours. Also mentally healthy workplaces encourage workers to take lunch breaks and managers address discrimination and have support programs in place.

The following excerpt from a post on TheGuardian.com explains more:

010d53c0-9260-40d1-8b96-30e1070309a9-460x276Many employers do not realise they can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity by improving mental health, says beyondblue’s chairman, Jeff Kennett.


“Employers not only have a health and safety obligation to deliver good mental health in the workplace but also a moral obligation to support their workers who often spend more time at work than anywhere else.”


He said the online guide could help businesses of all sizes with practical guidance on how to set up a mental health plan.


Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/16/beyondblue-construction-sites-mentally-healthy

Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a safe work environment and safe system of work, when applying this to the workplace employers should not neglect to address mental health of workers as well as their physical wellbeing.