Mental health issues cost Australian workforce billions per year: report

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Photo of a stressed employee Reuters/ File

Mental health is reportedly costing the Australian economy up to $12 billion per year. It has been found that mental health could affect job involvement and satisfaction, performance, absence and the physical health.

A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests that Australian workplaces spend $6.1 billion in “presenteeism” and $145.9 million in compensation claims. Mental health conditions also cost workforces $4.7 billion in absenteeism.

Problems concerning mental health can generate huge costs for both employers and workers. It negatively affects employers when a worker fails to communicate their problem, turn up but not function appropriately. Some workers have to take multiple sick days or long-term leave.

But workers usually deal with a greater toll. Some lose their jobs while others find their sick pay quickly runs out.

Taxpayers have to pay extra for goods due to struggling employees. They also need to fund mental health services and benefits. It is estimated that each dollar spent on efficient workplace mental health actions may produce $2.30 in benefits to an organisation. That is a 2.3 percent return on investment.

Emotional storm is coming

Workplace Mental Health Institute’s Pedro Diaz told that Australians need to be “future-proofing” their workload, relationships, lifestyle and finances. He compared the situation to dealing with a bushfire. Residents take steps, clean the gutter and board the windows.

Diaz said an emotional storm is coming and it is just a question of when. He explained that things go wrong when individuals do not feel valued, adding there is a difference between valuing someone and making him feel valued.

“If it’s not successful it impacts the relationship, in extreme cases they can suffer anxiety or depression,” he said. Diaz also warned that it is even worse if things are not going well at home.

Another issue, Diaz said, is when people are not feeling connected. Also, some industries do not have a lot of movement and would require employees to always sit in static position.

Between 20 and 30 percent of the Australia workforce will likely suffer from serious mental health issue at one point in their working life. Some workers might have to deal with depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In 2016, 2,866 deaths by suicide were recorded, down from 3,027 in 2015. About 13,545 workers engage in non-fatal suicidal behaviour every year. Up to 2,303 result in full incapacity while 11,242 workers need a short break from work.

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