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An estimated 3800 people who took their own lives in Australia in the decade to 2011 may have done so due to work, says a new Work and Suicide Prevention Position Statement.

The statement released by Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) says suicide and suicidal behaviour is estimated to cost the Australian economy $17.5 billion per year. “Monetary values aside, suicide cuts lives short and leaves scars,” SPA adds.

“The World Health Organization suggests worker suicide is a result of complex interaction between individual vulnerabilities and work-related environmental factors that trigger stress reactions and contribute to poor mental wellbeing,” SPA says.

“Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, including managing psychosocial stressors.”

Workplaces can do a number of things to help prevent suicide. These include understanding and valuing people as human beings rather than resources, prioritising psychosocial workplace safety, encouraging help-seeking behaviour as well as creating an inclusive workplace culture.

Contact the following if you are in need of immediate assistance:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

For more details on the story, visit SPA’s Work and Suicide Prevention Position Statement.

Published on 27 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

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.

Almost half of Australian workers who take time off for depression hide the reason from their employer, says a new SANE Australia study.

“Almost 1 in 2 who hadn’t informed their employer (48%) had felt they would put their job at risk if they told their employer the reason for time off,” said the study Impact of Depression at Work: Australia Audit.

Sane Australia said this is almost double the number of people compared with workers surveyed in Europe.

Australians diagnosed with depression also took less time off work than European workers. “The average number of working days taken off during their last episode was 14.6 days compared to 35.9 days reported by European workers.”

“Further research is needed to determine why people are returning to work sooner in Australia,” says SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath.

“It may be people are getting better treatment or it may be because of the greater stigma attached to mental illness.”

Sane Australia said Australian managers wanted more support from HR departments, more mental health training and more counselling for staff.

For more details, visit Sane Australia.

Published on 21 November 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

A lack of workplace support is associated with depression, says new research.

“Respondents who reported low levels of support from colleagues had twice the likelihood of having significant depression symptoms compared to those who report[ed] having support,” says the study, The Relationship between Work Characteristics, Wellbeing, Depression and Workplace Bullying.

“Consistent with the association between support from colleagues and depression, low levels of support from one’s manager was also associated with significantly higher risk of depression symptoms.”

The study shows that the risk of depression also appears to be affected by relational justice: superiors who provide consistent and sufficient information, who are willing to listen to problems and who provide criticism or praise.

The study reveals “a pattern of increasing risk of depression with declining levels of relational justice, with those reporting the poorest organisational culture showing significantly greater risk of depression compared to those reporting the best organisational culture”.

Workplace bullying was also associated with increased incidence of depression.

But the report notes, “It is not just the experience of depression symptoms that is seen to be elevated among those who experience workplace bullying.”

Suicidal thoughts are also more likely in those who are currently being bullied at work. They are “about twice as likely as those never bullied to report feeling that their life is hardly worth living, report feeling that they would be better off dead, and report that they had thought of taking their own life”, the report states.

The findings are part of the Australian National University’s Personality & Total Health (PATH) Through Life Project longitudinal study, which began in 1999.

The latest results are from interviews conducted in 2011–2012 with workers who were then aged between 32 and 36 years.

For help and support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more details on the study, visit Safe Work Australia.


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