BE PROACTIVE: Mentally healthy workplaces make sure people who experience mental health difficulties are supported. They have positive cultures that are conducive to mental wellbeing.
BE PROACTIVE: Mentally healthy workplaces make sure people who experience mental health difficulties are supported. They have positive cultures that are conducive to mental wellbeing. Think Stockmichael Blann

Mental illness costs Australian economy $20 billion a year

A NEW alliance has been formed to help businesses create mentally healthy workplaces for employees.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance is a collaboration between the National Mental Health Commission, Australian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Australian Psychological Society, beyondblue, the Black Dog Institute, the Business Council of Australia, Comcare, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, the Mental Health Council of Australia, Safe Work Australia, SANE Australia and the University of New South Wales.

National Mental Health Commission chairman Alan Fels encouraged all workplaces to take active steps to promote mental health.

"Mental illness costs the Australian economy over $20 billion a year, while recent research from SANE Australia highlights that the majority of people feel unsupported when mentally unwell, and less than half of managers have an understanding of mental illness," Professor Fels said. "With almost half of Australians likely to experience a mental illness in their lifetime, the importance of having mentally healthy workplaces cannot be overstated.

"Mentally healthy workplaces prevent harm to the mental health of their people, make sure people who experience mental health difficulties are supported, and have positive cultures that are conducive to mental wellbeing.

"Businesses that invest in mental health are also more productive, innovative and likely to recruit and retain the best and brightest people."

As part of the project the Alliance is inviting all Australian businesses to share their experiences in promoting mental well

being. The Call for Good Practice is open to all businesses until July 28 at www.workplacementalhealth.com.au and will help inform the development of practical resources for businesses to be released later in the year.

SANE Australia chief executive officer Jack Heath said people with mental illness had one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the OECD and the alliance "has a critical role to play in turning this around".

SANE Australia offers a training program to give managers the skills and confidence to respond effectively to signs of mental health problems at work and help managers to create positive and supportive workplaces.

"Business leaders care about the people they employ but if their managers don't know how to respond to mental health issues the end result can be costly for everyone in both human and dollar terms," Mr Heath said.

For information on the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance visit www.workplacementalhealth.com.au.

For further information about SANE Australia's Mindful Employer training and support program visit http://www.mindfulemployer.org



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