WA businesses call for help to support employee mental health

MEDIA RELEASE – 13 September 2018

Managing staff mental health is one of the biggest challenges currently being faced by Western Australian business leaders, according to a leading Perth human resources consultant.

Heather Warner, an HR expert with more than 30 years of experience, said there has been a dramatic increase in demand at her consultancy WCA Solutions to offer support and advice to businesses whose staff are affected by mental health issues.

“Mental health is an area where businesses increasingly require assistance – either to proactively understand their obligations to employees, and/or assist in supporting an employee who is struggling with a mental illness,” Ms Warner said.

“Businesses have specific legal obligations when it comes to their employees’ health conditions, and mental health is no different.

“Obligations around discrimination, work health and safety, privacy and fair work rights are all applicable to those with mental health conditions, and we are finding more and more businesses are actively seeking information on their responsibilities in these areas.”

According to Ms Warner, the most common areas of concern for businesses lies in the challenge of managing underperformance of an employee who advises they are suffering with a mental health condition.

“Managers find it a real struggle to simultaneously support the individual, whilst understanding their legal obligations, maintain equity with other staff, not to mention meeting the ongoing needs of the business as a whole,” she said.

National mental health support service beyondblue advises almost one in two Australians will have a mental health issue at some stage in their life and one in five workers is currently experiencing a mental health condition.

Beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said talking openly about depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions could promote good mental health practices across workplaces and communities.

“Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time: no one is immune,” Ms Harman said. “Workplaces that support individuals taking time out to look after their mental health are creating environments that are not only healthier for everyone, but more productive.”

A 2014 report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found businesses will return an average of $2.30 for every dollar they invest in effective mental health strategies.

“Leaders in all organisations face varying levels of stress. Ignored, these issues can develop into mental health conditions,” Ms Harman said. “Prioritising and actively managing our mental health and wellbeing can prevent illness. Seeking support and treatment early is crucial to recovery.”