Some years ago, I attended an awareness raising event on the subject of depression and workplace mental health. A young man took to the stage – maybe in his late twenties/early thirties. He spoke to us about what it felt like to live with depression.
A few days previously, there had been a story on the news about a devastating earthquake in another part of the world. As is often the case in our busy lives, we register the awfulness of the tragedy and the helplessness we feel at the unfolding scenes. And then we switch over the channel. At the front of the stage, the young man said he’d seen the pictures of the earthquake too…
“I’m the person under the rubble. I’m trapped under a mountain of earth and no one even knows I’m here. And even though I can hear the sounds of the rescuers above – I don’t know if they’ll ever reach me. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m never getting out. And that’s exactly what depression’s like to me. I’m in a blackest of holes and it feels like I’ll never get out”.
His words hit us. Because even if we’d never suffered from depression or struggled with our mental health – for a moment we understood.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace produces $2.30 return on investment
In 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted an analysis of the cost to business of poor mental health in the workplace. The cost of lost productivity resulting from absenteeism, presentism (employees presenting for work when they are unwell) and compensation claims amounts to $11 billion per year.
Their report Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace: Return on Investment Analysis found that the prevalence of mental health conditions varies by industry and that the industry itself can affect mental health in the workplace and visa-versa. The analysis found that for every dollar invested on a single action designed to improve mental health, on average business can expect to see a return on investment (ROI) of $2.30. This represents a 33% reduction in absenteeism, presentism and compensation claims.
PricewaterhouseCoopers looked at a range of preventative, early intervention and return to work measures which research shows, has proven benefits for improving workplace health. These include:
- worksite physical activity programs
- coaching and mentoring programs
- mental health first aid and education
- resilience training
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy based return-to-work programs
- well-being checks or health screenings
- quality communications services
- encouraging employee involvement.
The measures individual organisations are able to adopt will of course vary but evidence shows that even if they are only able to adopt one or two, they can still have a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of employees, the organisation and the bottom line.
In the mining industry, mental health issues are higher than average. In fact, a 2015 study by Edith Cowan University, found that fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers were twice as likely to suffer from depression than other Australians.
For some mine workers, and especially those on remote sites, isolation and disconnection from families is a daily struggle and one which can take a toll on a person’s mental health. It’s important therefore, that business owners and leaders take the initiative to pro-actively implement mental health strategies to support their staff.
Mental health bodies such as Rural and Remote Mental Health (RRMH), Beyond Blue and Heads Up are well-placed to help organisations take the first steps in creating mentally healthy workplaces – and with an average ROI of 2.3 it makes business sense to do so.
As for the young man – his recovery began when he reached out for help with his mental health. And it was the helping hands of others, alongside his own dedicated efforts, that eventually saw him pulled from his place of darkness. For his friends and family, his return to good mental health and happiness has been priceless.
If this article has raised concerns or if you are in need of support in managing depression, anxiety or mental health issues, please contact the organisations below:
RRMH delivers mental health programs and services to people living and working in rural and remote Australia.
PricewaterhouseCoopers: Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace: Return on Investment Analysis