“Suck it up princess”, “get over it”, “toughen up mate”. These are just some of the many phrases that make it almost impossible for so many to open up about mental health battles. There is a clear stigma in this country about mental health and vulnerability.
It’s a mindset across all age-groups, perhaps stemming from an ill-informed belief, particularly among young men, that it’s weak to talk about feelings, to cry, or to show emotion.
It is simply fact that many Australians – particularly males – hold negative attitudes towards help seeking behaviours (which can be dangerous should they suffer anxiety, depression or carry thoughts of suicide).
For some, these negative mindsets about mental health, and reluctance to open up about feelings and negative thoughts, follow them into their workplaces.
Some of this reluctance may stem from fears of harassment or bullying, and, particularly in some service occupations, worries about potential impact on their employment.
But if we are to improve mental health at work (and at home), we need to get over – and get past – the stigmas. We also need to be aware that the way our workplace is managed, the culture of relationships and the attitudes we foster at work, has a clear impact on the mental health of colleagues and co-workers.
Many employers may not be aware of it, but failing to protect mental health at work (and breaking through the stigmas), comes at huge cost to business.
The fact is that more days of work are lost due to mental health disorders – like depression, anxiety, substance-use disorders and other stress-related illnesses – than from any other illness, injury or chronic condition.
The direct economic cost to Australian businesses from this is up to $10.9 billion annually in lost productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover and compensation claims. So, in sheer economic terms, it’s worth doing something about. (See ADA’s The Little Blue Book of MENTAL HEALTH pp. 10)
PwC Australia, Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis, 2014.
More to the point, among advanced economies, Australia has among the highest rates of stress-related disorders, and among the highest rates of suicide and self-harm.(See ADA’s The Little Blue Book of MENTAL HEALTH pp. 11)
The answer, of course, lies in improving ‘mental health literacy’ so that all of us may better understand our own health, to be more comfortable talking about it, as well as being better able to recognise and help others who may be struggling.
You do not need to feel this way. If this information raised any concerns for you, please do speak to your GP, they can help you back to good health, or call a helpline: LIFELINE 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636.
Or, if you would just like to chat about any of the information in this article, call us on 1300 378 429.