It’s a Dirty Word!

Yes, believe it or not, in this day and age the topic of Mental Health is still frowned upon.  It is still a term rarely thrown around the office where people genuinely feel comfortable to converse about experiences personal to them or people they care about.

With this in mind, how many people are suffering in silence that we don’t know about?  Is it the person that you greet each morning arriving to work, the person sitting next to you, your manager, your CEO?  If this is happening each and everyday, imagine the enormity of the impact.

Did you know:

  • It is costing Australian Companies $48 Billion a year in Mental Health related issues
  • 1 in 4Emlployees are suffering from some form of mental and emotional distress each week


Mental health disorders are more common in the community than most would believe, with more than 20% of adults surveyed in Australia admitting to having suffered with mental illness. Depression is predicted to become the second highest cause of disease burden worldwide by 2020 (exceeded only by heart disease). It is predicted that mental illness will account for 15% of the total global burden of disease.

Mental health is a state of emotional and social wellbeing that allows an individual to cope with the normal stresses of life and achieve his or her potential. It includes being able to work productively, and contribute to community life. Mental health describes the capacity of individuals and groups to interact, inclusively and equitably, with one another and with their environment in ways that promote subjective wellbeing, and optimise opportunities for developing and using mental abilities.

Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. Its measurement is complex and there is no widely accepted measurement approach to date. The strong historical association between the terms ‘‘mental health’’ and ‘‘mental illness’’ has led some to prefer the term ‘‘emotional and social well-being’’, which also accords with holistic concepts of mental health.

SANE Australia (2008) suggests that of the people affected by mental health issues:

  • 3% will be severe
  • 2% will be classified as having bipolar disorder
  • 10% will be classified as having anxiety
  • 20% will be classified as having depression

The good news, however, is that most people with mental illness recover well and are able to lead fulfilling lives in the community when they receive appropriate ongoing treatment and support.

So if the answer is support, what is happening to our people, our colleagues that are experiencing some form of mental or emotional distress in an organisation that doesn’t have a high level of awareness of these issues and support measurements in place?  A question for us all to bring to the forefront of our mindsets.

For anyone who has experienced or knows of someone they care about having experienced some form of mental illness, it can be completely debilitating for all involved.  It is difficult enough for anyone experiencing any form of mental illness alone, separate to the concern that they will be judged or ridiculed for it.  We need to start supporting the building of awareness and acceptance around this area, to stop people suffering in silence, to help them feel empowered and supported to gain the strategies that will assist them to live a fuller life both personally and professionally.

We all have a responsibility in this.  From now on, be conscious of the people around you.  Have acknowledgement and compassion towards the concept that we aren’t aware of what is going on behind a persons smile.  Start developing a culture and language at work that supports awareness around mental and emotional wellbeing.

Imagine a working world, where the the conversation around this topic became the norm.  That there were normal practices, processes, policies, a positive culture in place to support staff going through any form of mental or emotional distress.    Where people weren’t suffering in silence!

We all have a responsibility to become mindful and aware of what is really going on around us in terms of mental illness.  Let’s all do our bit to not make Mental Health a dirty word!

If you feel that your workplace could do with some mental illness awareness programs and support, please feel free to get in touch with one of our friendly team on 1300 796 640.

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