Mental health awareness

A recruiter’s guide to mental health awareness

Bianca Compagnoni
22 May
Reading time: 8 minutes
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According to the World Health Organization, depression will be one of the biggest health problems worldwide by the year 2020. Considering that 450 million people worldwide suffer from a mental health condition, that comes as no surprise.

In a given year, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental illness and 13% of children 8 to 15 years of age will experience a severe mental health disorder at some point during their lifetime.

With most of us spending one-third of our lives working, which averages 90,000 hours over a lifetime, it’s safe to say that your job can make a significant impact on your quality of life.

With 1 in 6 workers experiencing some form of mental illness, creating a healthy and safe workplace is a vital first step. Yet, nearly two-thirds who are aware of their condition never seek treatment from a health professional.

The lack of support for people with mental disorders who do wish to seek help prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.

Bringing awareness to the masses

Since 1949, UK charity The Mental Health Foundation has brought attention to mental health with prevention at its heart. Their core mission is to find and address the sources of mental health problems. They’ve spread awareness every year with Mental Health Awareness Week occurring during May.

The month of May is also set as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, set up by nonprofit organisation Mental Health America (MHA).

Raising awareness of mental health is advocated by many organisations, including Beyond Blue, Mental Health Australia, Headspace, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

ReachOut is one of Australia’s leading online mental health organisations for young people and their parents and provides support, tools and tips to help young Australians get through anything from everyday issues to tough times. Through charitable events and raising proceeds for mental health, ReachOut is a prime example of how you can bring awareness to your workplace.

Cause and effect

There have been debates on what is and isn’t a mental illness, but research is starting to uncover the complicated causes. Many believe and suggest that genetics, as well as psychological, and environmental factors, play a part.

There’s also a theory around the chemical imbalance in the brain, where it’s often cited as the cause for many mental health disorders. This theory states that mental health conditions are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters between nerve cells in the brain. For example, depression is said to be a result of having too little serotonin in the brain (although the research is inconclusive.)

Despite such theories abounding, mental health disorders aren’t so simple to diagnose, as there can be a number of contributing factors.

A negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful substance abuse, absenteeism and lost productivity. Many factors influence the mental health of employees, such as poor communication and management practices, limited participation in decision-making, long or inflexible working hours, bullying and psychological harassment.

The World Health Organisation has reported that depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact with an estimated cost to the global economy as high as US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity, which is massive.

According to SafeWork NSW, absenteeism due to mental ill-health costs workplaces about $825 per worker every year, with presenteeism costing businesses an average of $3,401 per year for a worker experiencing mental ill-health, and up to $5,305 for workers with severe mental ill-health.

According to WHO, workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.

Sharing one’s own personal mental health concerns with friends, family, colleagues and society, in general, can be another challenge. The situation can be overwhelming, especially when up to 50% of employees with a mental health problem will not disclose this information to their manager. How you spread awareness and take action can change society’s issue into a resolution for change.

The power of education

Discussion around mental health has improved over the past decades, but studies show that mental illness is still stigmatised.

Due to this recurring dilemma, many people who have a mental illness don’t wish to talk about it, but ultimately it is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes.

Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect you regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, income, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation. With mental health illnesses affecting 1 in 5 adults, there’s a chance someone in your office is suffering from a mental illness.

Mental health is invisible to the naked eye, making it even harder to spot and address. But speaking up, asking a loved one how they are, and staying alert and involved can make a world of difference.

Further educating on mental illness can help promote change around this topic.

By using mental health resources and taking action to create a mentally healthy workplace, you can help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health and encourage people to seek professional help and support.

Lending a hand

Bringing awareness is great, but taking action is even better. With suicide being the second most common cause of death among young people worldwide, there is a need for global awareness, support and understanding within our communities.

Someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds, but the actions you take, the knowledge you consume and the people you speak to, can help others on their journey to understanding the importance of mental health awareness.

Nearly 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives, so what can you, as a recruiter, do to help?

  • Research and find resources: Understanding mental illness can be quite challenging, especially if you’ve never experienced it yourself. Mental health organisations such as Black Dog Institute and HeadsUp have excellent guides and resources on mental health and how to create a mentally healthy workplace. Additionally, Mental Health America’s 2019 Mental Health Month toolkit provides fact sheets and additional resources.
  • Host a charitable event: Bring awareness to your workplace through a social and interactive charitable event. Let your candidates know that your company supports mental health and it’s affiliated organisations.
  • Get involved: Spread awareness through social media platforms by posting, sharing and liking organisations and events that are promoting and raising awareness for mental health. Get involved and follow mental health organisations such as The Mental Health Foundation, and stay up to date with their campaigns and events. This will reflect well on you as an employer of choice.
  • Reach out: Approaching someone about their mental health is as simple as asking the question ‘R U Okay?’ By creating this opening, you can start to build trust and open a line of communication that could develop into something deeper. Even if the response received is not the response you were hoping for, it will let them know that someone cares. Or, if you need to reach out to someone for your own mental health concerns, speak to someone you trust and build it from there, as this is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.
  • Show support: Demonstrate that your organisation is willing to assist candidates with long durations of unemployment due to mental health issues. Flexible work hours, job-redesign, addressing negative workplace dynamics and having supportive and confidential communication with management are a few ways to help those with the dual pressures of mental illness and work. Let your candidates know that even if they have a mental illness they can still find solutions when it comes to finding a job. Recruitment agencies such as Ostara Australia provide employment services for job seekers who are disadvantaged.

Raise dough

The above points are a few helpful suggestions and a starting point. At JobAdder, we’re raising awareness of mental health through our Great JobAdder Bake Off as part of ReachOut’s annual fundraising event.

On May 22, several Adders volunteered their baking skills to raise funds and awareness of mental health.

All proceeds raised will be donated to ReachOut. For 20 years, ReachOut has been helping young Australians get through life’s challenges, as well as offering helpful information to parents.

CEO of ReachOut, Ashley de Silva, said ReachOut’s fundraising event ‘Raise Dough’ is simple to get involved in and a good excuse to get mindful. “Around 70 per cent of young people in Australia living with a mental health difficulty don’t get the help they need. All of the dough raised this May will help ReachOut provide free digital support to even more young Australians who need help right now.”

Don’t worry you can still donate and help us raise dough and awareness of mental health. Help ReachOut provide young people with the tools and support to improve their health and wellbeing!


Powering through

In the words of Alastair Campbell, mental illness is like any other, “Like cancer is. Like asthma is. Like diabetes is. Some people get it, some people don’t. It is a truly horrible illness and must be viewed and [medically] treated as such.”

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