Mental Health Issues In The Workplace


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I recently had the pleasure to undertake the St John respond to crisis situations course. The course deals with what is mental illness, how to identify it and how to help people dealing with mental health issues.

One in five Australians surveyed suffer from mental health issues, so its relevant that people in roles of responsibility  have an understanding on how to help mental health sufferers in their workplace.

Some common types of mental health issues you may find in your workplace include, people suffering from anxiety, depression or psychotic disorders.

Some Facts

  • Almost one in five Australians surveyed had experienced symptoms of a mental disorder during the 12 month period before the survey.
  • Anxiety disorders were most common – 14.4%, followed by affective disorders – 6.2% (of which depression is 4.1%), and substance use disorders – 5.1% (of which 4.3% is alcohol related).
  • The percentage of people meeting the criteria for diagnosis of a mental illness was highest in younger people, with the prevalence decreasing with age. Twenty-six per cent of 18-24 year olds had experienced a mental disorder, while only 5.9% of people aged 65 years and over had experienced a mental disorder.
  • People unemployed or not in the paid workforce had the highest rates of mental disorder, a prevalence rate of 26% for unemployed men and 34% for unemployed women.
  • Those with a mental disorder averaged three days out of role (i.e. unable to undertake normal activity because of health problems) over a four-week period. This compared with one day out of role for people with no physical or mental condition.

So what can you do if you notice somebody is not themselves at your work ? Some key signs are :

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance use

Some of the key things I learnt from the training day include :

  1. Listen to them , try to put yourself in their shoes.
  2. Show empathy for their situation.
  3. Treat the person with respect and dignity
  4. Do not blame the person for their illness
  5. Offer consistent emotional support and understanding
  6. Encourage the person to talk to you
  7. Be a good listener
  8. Give the person hope for recovery
  9. If the person would like information, make sure the resources you provide are accurate and appropriate to their situation

*This is by no means a complete list and i do not claim to be an expert or trained professional.

If you are interested to learn more on how to identify and help sufferers of mental health click this link : How to Help a Friend, Family Member or Co-worker with a Mental Illness or Crisis

Thanks for reading


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