Australian businesses need to create a culture of open and honest discussions about mental health a CEDA forum in Melbourne heard.
Australian businesses need to create a culture of open and
honest discussions about mental health, a CEDA forum in Melbourne
Beyondblue, Workplace and Workforce Program Leader,
Therese Fitzpatrick said buy-in from the top is necessary
to change cultural and get organisations talking about mental
"People will not talk about mental health problems within their
workplace and that's something we need to do something about," she
"We need commitment from senior leaders…unless you've got that
buy in from the top you're not going to really get proper
Ms Fitzpatrick said we need to remove the stigma surrounding
mental illness and get organisations thinking about workplace
mental health in the same way they do about physical health and
"We need to make sure we now get mental health on the agenda so
people are really thinking about it from a wellbeing perspective
but also a legislative perspective," she said.
Ms Fitzpatrick said it was imperative organisations have a
mentally healthy workplace and workforce in order to achieve
"It's really important that we don't put if off to the side,
it's not something separate that we do. It is something we need to
incorporate into absolutely everything that we do," she said.
Ms Fitzpatrick said beyondblue had found job stress, which is
defined as work that is high demand and low control with low social
support at work, has a two to three fold increase in depression and
Executive Institute of Performance and Wellbeing,
Executive Director, Greg Burns said it is critical we
address the stigma and shame associated with mental health issues
which is obstructed by corporate culture.
"The competitive corporate culture undermines virtually every
business because of the fact that it takes away any chance of
honesty in the workplace," he said.
"Consequently it's a major inhibiting factor for executives or
for any person in the workforce to come forward to seek existence
before they hit rock bottom."
Speaking from his own experience with job stress and depression,
Mr Burns, who was named Australia's number one stockbroker three
years in a row in BRW's annual awards (1998-90), while many
excellent initiatives to raise public awareness exist, very little
still exists in business.
"The same problems that had adversely affected me (are) still
major impediments in creating a workplace that could empathise with
those facing this disease," he said.
"There is a lack of education, awareness, early intervention and
of course the major impediment, the stigma that's associated with
mental health issues."
"Many Australian businesses have a culture of sending their
executives for physical health checks but almost none of them send
their executives for mental health checks."
"This is in spite of the fact that depression is one of the
leading causes of disability and is expected to become the number
one cause in the future.
Mr Burns agreed that changing organisational culture must begin
with the CEO and board.
"Senior management must lead the way to demonstrate that their
organisation takes the issue of mental health seriously and
supports the workforce in managing their wellbeing," he said.
Director, Policy, Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA),
Judith Fox said from a risk management perspective it's
surprising the mental health of an organisation is still not on the
CSA research conducted in 2012 of 300 ASX listed companies found
that 40 per cent of participants did not see mental health issues
as a risk to their organisation, she said.
"There really is a risk of corporate and executive liability if
these issues are not taken care of within an organisation," she
"One of the key things to actually being able to get this on the
board's agenda is to actually talk about it as a risk management
issue, which is exactly what it is. It's no different from other
forms of workplace health and safety.
"They (the Board) have to understand that they're responsible
for setting the culture, the tone from the top.
"So you must involve your board in the development of those
policies as they are involved in every other policy."
However, Ms Fox warned that the desired and lived culture must
align and policies must be evaluated to ensure they are
"You can have the best policies in the world, but they don't
mean anything if the actual culture that is lived day-to-day is
completely at odds with what your policies say," she said.