The Human Rights Commission has urged New Zealand employers to create a strategic plan for the mental wellbeing of their employees.
“It may not be found on a balance sheet but employee mental health is an intangible but invaluable asset for any business,” said EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue.
“There are organisations that exist to support employers who want to protect and promote the wellbeing of their employees. Good mental health is good for business.”
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s (5-11 October 2015) focus is “Give – Give your time, your words and your presence”.
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand’s programme for providing services to support mental health in the workplace, Working Well, exists to support employers provide a safe workplace that builds and strengthens positive mental health.
Recent research from PriceWaterhouseCoopers Australia suggests that, for every dollar spent on implementing successful mental health strategies, businesses receive more than $2 in return – and in Australian workplaces the cost of untreated mental health conditions is approximately $11 billion a year.
Dr Blue says it is in an employer’s interest to work out how to accommodate a person who may need a bit more support. She says that to go further and encourage an understanding culture about this disability will lead to greater productivity in the workplace in the long run.
“A person is more likely to disclose a problem when they don’t fear losing their job, this means solutions can be found more quickly in a better and fairer way for everyone involved,” said Dr Blue.
“We need to encourage a work environment that has peer support, collaborative relapse prevention and programmes at work to support staff to get well. Employment is an important factor in the recovery of people with mental illness and is generally associated with better mental health.”
“There’s the myth that if you’ve got a mental illness you’re actually not employable. You can’t handle stress, you’re potentially dangerous to yourself and to others, you are a lot of extra work, you’re unreliable, you will take lots of time off, and so on.
“Often accommodating a person with a mental health issue involves of a bit of give and take, flexibility offered by the employer and the vision to help the staff member get well."
“I encourage people considering disclosing a mental health issue to their employer, but are unclear on their own obligations or that of their employer, to contact the Commission Infoline service for advice,” Dr Blue suggests.