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Psychological health

Psychological health issues can have a significant negative impact on individuals and the workplace.

Like all work health and safety hazards it needs to be managed.

Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety, both psychological and physical, and to ensure that their mental health and wellbeing does not create a risk to their own or anyone else’s health and safety.

Did you know?

At any given time, approximately 1 in 5 Australian workers is likely to be experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. This is estimated to cost Australian workplaces $10.9 billion per year in absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims.

Good business sense

Our work health and safety laws define ‘health’ as including psychological health. Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must ensure the psychological health of workers in the same way they do physical health.

A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes the psychological health of everyone at work by:

  • having a positive workplace culture
  • minimising psychosocial hazards such as:
    • bullying and harassment
    • fatigue
    • work-related violence
    • stressful working conditions
  • supporting people with mental health conditions appropriately
  • reducing stigma and discrimination.

Safe Work Australia’s provides information for PCBUs and workers on how to address psychological injury risks. Ensure you check for inherent risks by looking at systems of work design and management, before complementing with health and wellbeing programs.

By creating a mentally healthy workplace you will also benefit from improved productivity, performance and staff retention, and be perceived as an employer of choice. For every $1 you spend on mental health initiatives, there is an average return on investment of $2.30.

Safety solutions

Identify psychological health hazards through one-on-one discussions with your workers, personal observations and reviewing past incidents. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are individual job demands and has the level changed recently?
  • Do any workers have too low a level of control/ autonomy in their daily duties?
  • Have you provided sufficient support to your workers (management, training, resources, employee assistance program)?
  • Do workers have good relationships at work?
  • Have you clarified job descriptions appropriately?
  • Have you communicated and managed any business changes effectively?
  • Are workers remunerated and recognised adequately?
  • Are you treating all workers fairly?

Control any identified risks through:

  • matching jobs to skills
  • setting reasonable and achievable timeframes for work, in consultation with workers
  • clearly defining job roles and scope of the work
  • providing flexible working arrangements and considering work/life balance
  • engaging workers in decision-making and providing regular feedback on performance
  • ensuring support systems are in place for workers
  • linking workers to employee assistance programs.

Maintain and review control measures to ensure their effectiveness, in particular when a psychological injury occurs or before making change.

Mentally healthy worker initiatives and services

Many resources and support services are available to help you protect and promote psychological health in your workplace.

  • Australian Human Rights Commission’s Mental Illness: a Practical Guide for Managers

    provides information on how to appropriately support workers with mental illness and how to develop and promote a safe and healthy work environment for all workers.

  • beyondblue

    provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.

  • Black Dog Institute

    workplace mental health and wellbeing programs help to create a work environments that promote mental wellbeing, increased worker engagement and greater productivity.

  • Department of Health

    has made the search for mental health services and resources easier by handpicking resources from publicly funded providers.

  • Heads Up

    a national campaign to support and create mentally healthy workplaces, with resources for employers, workers, managers and small business owners.

    The Mental health in the workplace toolbox training package is a free resource that includes a 90-minute training session delivered by a nominated professional or educator to team leaders and managers who are then equipped to deliver mental health toolbox talks to their team.

  • headspace

    is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, and provides early intervention mental health services for young Australians aged 12-25 years.

  • MATES in Construction

    is helping reduce the high level of suicide within the Australian construction industry.

  • Mental health services in Australia

    provides a picture of the national response of the health and welfare system to the mental health care needs of Australians.

  • The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance

    is a national approach by business, community and government encouraging Australian workplaces to become mentally healthy.

  • SANE Australia

    is a national charity helping Australians affected by mental illness and provides resources to help employers respond to workplace mental health issues.

  • Suicide Prevention Australia

    provides national leadership for the meaningful reduction of suicide in Australia.

  • World Health Organization

    for the latest international information, publications, statistics and more about mental health.

In case of emergency

GPs can also refer you to specialist psychologist services, such as a Mental Health Shared Care Plan.

Further information

Work-related psychological health and safety: A systematic approach to meeting your duties

Psychological health and safety in the workplace: a national guide

Further resources can be accessed from our Library catalogue.