If your mental health is under strain at work, you’re not alone.
A new survey from the Australian Council of Trade Unions showed that workers across the country are overworked and under-supported, leading to deteriorating mental health.
21 per cent of workers surveyed said they experienced mental health issues related to work in the last 12 months. And according to ACTU Secretary Liam O’Brien, this suffering was preventable.
“More than a fifth of workers have suffered a preventable mental health issue in the last 12 months due to issues in their workplace. This is a crisis in Australian workplaces which has fallen out of view during the pandemic, but requires immediate attention,” he said.
For those working in education, health or retail, the mental health toll was even more serious. More than a quarter of employees in these industries reported having a mental health issue at work in the past 12 months.
Prevention is the first step
As much as the world of marketing would have us believe otherwise, poor mental health cannot be solved simply with a facial treatment or retail therapy. We know too well that workplace mental health needs more than pizza parties and yoga sessions.
“Employers have a responsibility to remove hazards to the health of their employees from the workplace,” O’Brien said.
“It is just as important to eliminate or mitigate the factors that cause stress and mental injury such as overwork, occupational violence and aggression, bullying or harassment as it is to remove trip hazards or ensure safe use of machinery.”
Starting that conversation with your employer can be daunting if you’re going it alone. But when you’re in a union, you don’t have to.
Health and Safety Representatives are there for you
Worried about how your work could be affecting your mental health? Chat to your Health and Safety Representative (HSR) at work about your concerns.
Not to be confused with a safety officer (appointed by your employer), your HSR is elected by you and your colleagues. Their role is to represent workers in health and safety matters.
One of the reasons why HSRs are crucial is they can help raise mental health safety to the same level as physical health and safety.
Your best protection at work is union membership. If you don’t have an HSR at your work, the first step is for you and your workmates to join your union and elect an HSR.
Work-related mental health problems can be a little tricker to identify compared to physical health concerns (it’s a lot easier to point out an untied shoelace than more abstract risks to mental health).
For that reason, the Mind Your Head campaign has resources for workers looking to ensure a healthy workplace.
How to protect your mental health at work