Many Australian workers say they feel they can’t speak to their manager about their mental health concerns, while 7 per cent of those who have were told to ‘toughen up’. Picture: iStock
Many Australian workers say they feel they can’t speak to their manager about their mental health concerns, while 7 per cent of those who have were told to ‘toughen up’. Picture: iStock

How bosses are pushing staff to breaking point

Exclusive: Toughen up and sort it out yourself.

Mental illness is still misunderstood in the workplace, with a recent survey of more than 1000 Aussie workers showing many employers are failing to support their staff when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Almost 400 (39 per cent) said their employer "did nothing" when they reported their mental health issues and alarmingly, more than 70 workers said they were told to "toughen up" when they approached their boss with concerns.

The GO1 Workplace Wellbeing Survey, released today on R U OK Day, asked Australians to rate how well their employers protected the mental health of their staff.

Only a third of employees are comfortable talking to their manager about their mental health, with 16 per cent "uncomfortable" and 28 per cent "very uncomfortable".

Alarmingly, only 28 per cent advise staff to see a doctor, and 40 per cent simply "do nothing".

Australian GP Dr Vu Tran is a co-founder of leaning start-up GO1. The company has asked the country's workforce how their employers respond to their mental health concerns. Picture: Supplied
Australian GP Dr Vu Tran is a co-founder of leaning start-up GO1. The company has asked the country's workforce how their employers respond to their mental health concerns. Picture: Supplied

Instead workers are bottling their mental health issues, with 320 saying they felt they had no one to confide in at work.

Some said they turned to colleagues in times of stress (20 per cent), but only 18 per cent felt their boss was approachable.

This is despite the government's Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH) report out this week showing 14 per cent of the country's workforce still worked 50 hours a week or more and one in four people were struggling with loneliness.

GP and co-founder of Australian learning start-up GO1 Dr Vu Tran said the findings were a "concerning" cry for help from employees that was falling on deaf ears.

He said it's time for employers to do a better job at supporting their workers' mental wellbeing.

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His concerns come as recent research commissioned by Suicide Australia warned the country's suicide rate is expected to rise by 40 per cent by 2030 (4430 deaths) without better prevention and intervention.

Increased loneliness, money woes and lack of full time employment were considered risk factors for the grim prediction.

Dr Tran warned there were many scary consequences of ignoring workers' wellbeing including significant mortalities, potential disability claims over psychological distress, absenteeism and presenteeism (when people come to work but are too stressed to be productive).

He said he had come across many Australian organisations who wanted to address employee wellbeing concerns but they didn't know how to change their culture.

Roxy Jacenko, at home in Sydney’s Vaucluse, says she’s aware how harmful stress can be. Picture: Britta Campion/The Australian
Roxy Jacenko, at home in Sydney’s Vaucluse, says she’s aware how harmful stress can be. Picture: Britta Campion/The Australian

Director of Sweaty Betty PR and the face of Channel 10's I Am Roxy, Roxy Jacenko said there's something very wrong with Australia's fair work system.

"As an employer it's very hard to have employees, there's a lot of stigma (around mental health) that you shouldn't talk about it and I think talking about it is very important," she told Mumbrella.

"I don't want to see the Charlotte Dawsons of the world happen again."

While Ms Jacenko admits she's a tough boss who wants her employees to "excel in their careers and not just be mediocre", she's well aware of what life stressors can do to a person's wellbeing.

"Is my life perfect? Absolutely not … I have a broken relationship with my family, I've had cancer at 36 while trying to look after my children, four businesses and my husband was in jail. Depression and mental health (issues) are not discriminatory."

Mr Tran said: "Ideally, managers and leaders will start taking the initiative to improve mental health within their organisations before it reaches the point of crisis.

"This means everyone in the organisation being aware of mental health issues and domestic violence, having robust policies against bullying and harassment, and clear support networks.

"It's also about actively building resilience and erasing the stigma of mental health."

 

HOW AUSSIE WORKERS RATE THEIR EMPLOYERS

 

When it comes to mental health, my organisation:

a) Tells me to "toughen up" - 7%

b) Advises me to see my doctor - 28%

c) Refers me to our company Adviser - 16%

d) Refers me to HR - 10%

e) Does nothing - 39%

 

How comfortable are you talking to your manager about your mental health?

a) Very comfortable - 17%

b) Comfortable - 16 %

c) Neutral - 23%

d) Uncomfortable - 16%

e) Very uncomfortable - 28%

 

Who do you talk to in your organisation regarding your mental health?

a) My manager - 18%

b) Colleagues - 20%

c) HR - 10%

d) No one - 32%

e) Others - 20%

 

Survey of more than 1000 workers conducted by Australian start-up GO1 in August 2019.


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