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The latest Mental Health Commission report card is calling for a new national strategy to reduce discrimination at work and elsewhere.

“As a country, we can’t afford the personal, community and productivity costs that too often accompany poor mental health,” said Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission.

“As a society, and as individuals, we must stop blaming people for their mental illness. And we must find the courage to call out those who do.”

The commission is advocating for more targeted antidiscrimination initiatives beginning with those who come into frequent contact with people with mental health problems.

Beyondblue says more than three million Australians experience depression or anxiety, so it’s “quite likely” work colleagues and employers will know someone who is experiencing these illnesses.

However, many people don’t feel comfortable disclosing their mental health status. The Elephant in the Boardroom, a survey of more than 4000 people with depression and stress disorders found that 86 per cent of people living with mental illnesses were uncomfortable talking about them with their work colleagues.

“They are remaining silent because they fear disclosure will compromise their career prospects, and may exclude them from projects,” says Graeme Cowan, the survey’s author and Director of ICMI Work Health and Safety Solutions.

Some of Cowan’s key recommendations for change include teaching managers and team members to ask their colleagues and employees, ‘Are you OK?’; and managers understanding and using their employees work strengths every day.

Meanwhile, in early 2014, the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, which was established by the Mental Health Commission, will release practical mental health resources for businesses.

This initiative stems from the commission’s previous 2012 report card, which included the importance of meaningful work.

For more details, visit the Commission’s 2013 and 2012 report cards and The Elephant in the Boardroom.

Published on 5 December 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

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