Should workplaces be educating staff about mental illness?

The Sydney Morning Herald

 Research shows economic benefits for organisations that promote a healthy workforce. Research shows economic benefits for organisations that promote a healthy workforce.

Mental illness costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion every year, with about 12 million days lost to reduced productivity annually, begging the question of why workplaces aren't doing more to educate employees about the issue.

Mental Health Recovery Institute chief executive Pedro Diaz said businesses were still trying to catch up with workplace mental health training.

"In reality, mental health [education] in the workplace is about 20 years behind," Mr Diaz said.

This is despite research showing economic benefits for organisations which ensure they have a healthy workforce.

"Research shows people who have had a mental illness and recover their health with the help of their workplace are actually more loyal and they produce more once they come back to work."

It's estimated up to 45 per cent of Australians will experience mental health problems at some stage.

Kylie Bennet, e-hub development manager at the National Institute for Mental Health Research, said it was developing a mental health education program.

Ms Bennet hoped the program, Mental Health Guru, would be made mandatory.

"What we're doing is educating the whole workforce on what to do if you have developed a mental health problem, how to decrease stigma."

Ms Bennet agreed there were huge incentives for organisations to educate staff.

"It's really likely that if we as an individual don't develop a mental health problem, that someone very close to us will," Ms Bennet said.

"So by understanding more about what to do if you do develop a mental health condition or how to help someone else appropriately it means that as an organisation we can reduce the impact of mental health problems.

"For organisations, there are huge productivity losses associated with mental health problems, so there's actually a very significant economic argument for businesses to instigate workplace training."

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