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When it comes to pointing the finger at generational shortcomings, Gen Y usually cops it – yet new research has found the youngest generation in the workforce is actually the most accepting of mental illness.

The research by not-for-profit WISE Employment, looked at the cross-generational attitudes of employers.

The researchers identified a greater willingness among Gen Y bosses to hire and support someone who has a mental illness than their more experienced counterparts.

Some 276 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were surveyed across Australia, specifically gauging their willingness to employ job seekers with a mental illness.

Interestingly, 42% of Gen Ys said they would be likely to hire someone with a mental illness, compared to just 16% of Baby Boomers surveyed.

“This stark contrast in attitudes from generation to generation is a significant finding, offering new hope to people with a mental illness as more Gen Ys gain roles with hiring authority,” Matthew Lambelle from WISE Employment said.

The study, conducted by McNair Ingenuity Research, also highlighted the lack of opportunity afforded to employees with a mental illness. Only 27% of hiring managers said they were willing to give a person with a mental illness a go.

The main perceptions cited for employers not employing a person with a mental illness included:

  • Perceived unpredictable or unstable behaviour (61%)
  • A lack of understanding from other staff (47%)
  • Inability to do the job (47%)

“These stigmatised perceptions don’t match reality, with the majority of employers who had hired a person with a mental illness finding the experience positive or very positive,” Lambelle said, adding less than one in ten reported a negative experience.”

The research forms part of WISE Employment’s Empowermental campaign that runs throughout October and aims to break down stigma and encourage Australian businesses to consider employing people who have mental illness.

Employer tips to create a mentally healthy workplace:

  • Tackle the stigma around mental illness
  • Talk positively in the workplace about mental illness, eg: participate in
    mental health awareness campaigns, fundraising events and promotions, such as RUOK Day and Stress Down Day, to create a healthy and inclusive workplace culture.
  • Focus on practical things to help, eg: monitor workloads, employee involvement, the physical environment and the nature of relationships at work
  • Develop solutions by listening
  • Support flexibility in the workplace
  • Lead by example – be a role model for your staff by managing your own wellbeing – manage stress and take time to talk to people individually
  • Respond to employees’ issues
  • Develop an action plan when employee’s disclose a mental health issue

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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