Mental Health, Big Business and what isn’t being done.

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Long has there been controversy around mental health in the workforce. Looking at big businesses and Support Foundations there is a need to change the stigma surrounding mental health and show more support for the people that suffer from a mental health condition in the workplace.

Some facts – nearly 45% of the worlds population will experience a mental illness some time during their lives. One in five Australians will experience a mental illness. It is a common experience at any stage of ones life. Mental health issues is the third biggest problem in Australia.

Big businesses have a responsibility around mental health – they need to provide a mentally healthy work environment for their employees as well as understand what to do when one of their employees comes down with a mental health issue. People with mental health issues are looking and are eager for work. 15% to 30% of employees will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. So there is a need for businesses to get involved and help provide appropriate support for workers who experience a mental illness.

Looking at big businesses I contacted Woolworths to see what they had to say in their support for people with mental health and if they had a program that aided people with mental health issues into getting a job with them. I received a reply and was directed to the information on their websites – sadly this was not the information I needed. Also in the reply was that any information not published on the Woolworths Limited or Woolworths websites is considered sensitive information.

My professional relationship with Woolworths as an employee gives me some insight into this issue. I am aware that there is a program that Woolworths is involved in that allows for people with mental illnesses and people with disabilities a chance to work. Woolworths has been praised for their How to guide with the inclusion of disabled workers into their company. Though what is being done to help them along and keep them working is seen as an issue. Any further information regarding this issue and Woolworths is as said in the reply, “sensitive”.

In 2010 Jason Jackson a Woolworths employee took Woolworths Limited to court about a compensation claim. Jackson claimed he had received a mental injury from his job which included torment from his co-workers. Jackson has a history of mental illness, abusing drugs and only finished year 6 of school, this was known by the employer and co-workers. Woolworths Limited claimed, from the Accident Compensation Legislation Act 1985, that Jackson should not receive compensation due to coming into employment with a known mental illness and that the incidences that took place during work at Woolworths did not have an impact on the mental health injury Jackson was already known to have..

27% of employers would be interested in hiring a person with a mental illness. In the following interview with psychologist, Dr Otilia Rodrigues, she goes on to mention that finding a job is not the real issue, but the lack of understanding from the employer around mental health issues and what to do when it occurs.

Their is a stigma around mental health in the workforce. Stigma is when someone is stereotyped and labelled by their illness – which leads to negative actions and opinions from other people.  There is the understanding that people with mental health issues are seen as unable to be as competent as someone who does not have a mental health issue.

It is a common myth that people with a mental illness should be kept in hospital, with proper treatment and support people with mental health issues can live successfully and independently by themselves, with-in the community.

This issue to get rid of people from the work place who come down with a mental health issue is seen as a negative aspect on the road to recovery for someone with a mental health issue. Seen in this YouTube video, which talks to people with mental health issues and gives different views on how they are being treated by society – so they find a support Foundation for a place to belong. The people in the video just want to fit in with society and live their lives – highlighted by the reason for the Foundation: “providing opportunities for our members to live, work, and learn, while contributing their talents through a community of mutual support”. The people with mental illnesses just want to work and be a part of a community.

There are organizations such as BeyondBlue and associations such as the Mental Health Association that help people understand that mental illness is a common issue that people need to be aware of. I asked if either network had any specific information regarding big businesses. BeyondBlue mentioned that businesses have their own individual way of dealing with mental health issues in the workplace and that any detail in knowing the specifics of what they do is private. Both BeyondBlue and the Mental Health Association let me know that there is a need to mental health awareness into big businesses and gave me links to websites that illustrated some programs that would help in aiding businesses to make them more mentally healthy places. Mental Health Association program link. BeyondBlue program link.

BeyondBlue, via twitter, let me know that we can expect to see a big workplace campaign next year.

Follow BeyondBlue on Twitter
Follow Mental Health Association NSW on Twitter

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