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Depressed employee with hands over his face

Businesses urged to address male mental health in the workplace

Mental illness in young men is costing the Australian economy more than $3 billion per year, $237 million of which are direct costs to businesses, and experts are urging SMBs to get a handle on this growing issue or risk seeing a decline in productivity and the loss of key staff members.

According to a report by the Inspire Foundation and Ernst and Young, the Australian economy loses $387,000 per hour and over nine million working days annually as a result of the issue.

While the Federal Government bears 31 percent of the overall costs through payments for healthcare, welfare and unemployment benefits, the remainder of the cost is carried by companies, organisations and individuals.

Inspire Foundation CEO Jonathan Nicholas believes these staggering figures are evidence that young men’s health is not just an issue for government and community sectors, suggesting the need to explain economic impacts on the business community.

“For the first time we are starting to understand that there are productivity opportunities and risks associated with the mental health of young men. The failure to act presents a serious threat to Australia’s future productivity and to the individual prosperity of young men affected by poor mental health,” he said.

“Helping young men with mental illness with education and training opportunities will assist higher wages and productivity for the economy,” he added.

Ernst and Young lead health partner David Roberts said addressing poor mental health in the workplace through early detection and diagnosis has clear benefits to business including avoiding the costs of absenteeism and potentially reducing the flow-on effects to co-workers by not having to carry additional work task

“This report reveals the huge impact mental health has on the Australian economy and our country’s productivity. If we want to help prevent suicide among young Australian men, we as businesses need to act urgently,” Roberts said.

With this in mind, here are five tips every business owner can implement to help improve mental health in the workplace:

  • Time management is crucial to keeping stress under control during busy work periods ‐ use time effectively by working from a list every day.
  • Make your ‘todo’ list work for you ‐ when you are flat out, narrow the list down to ‘should‐do’ and ‘must‐do’ tasks.
  • Peer support – sharing experiences from your workplace with peers or a mentor through memberships such as TEC, helps to narrow down the problem and is an opportunity to identify effective strategies.
  • Don’t bottle up thoughts and feelings ‐ there are acceptable and professional ways to express feelings in the workplace if there is a work related problem, which can become much worse when not shared.
  • Be more assertive –don’t take a back seat and hope that everything will sort itself out, have the courage to address problems. A supportive work environment should encourage and assist staff to talk through problems or issues.
  • The power of compromise – happy middle ground can be found through a conflict if all parties are willing to be open and cooperate with one another.