Today is R U OK? Day, a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop small problems from escalating. This is an ideal opportunity for employers and employees alike to think about how they can better support each other in the workplace. We know that a mentally-healthy workplace - that has a positive and supportive atmosphere - is crucial to our wellbeing.
It was a great concern to learn when I met with SANE recently, that most Australians with a mental illness receive little support or understanding in the workplace.
Mental illness is more common than we would like to think - around 45% of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, while 20% are affected every year. In fact, it is likely that all people will either know someone impacted by mental illness, or experience mental illness at some point in their working life.
It was also of concern to hear that many with a mental illness did not believe their manager had an understanding of these issues. Without understanding, how can one expect support?
This lack of understanding takes its toll on not only the individual affected, but their colleagues around them.
In fact, it can even have a negative impact on a businesses' bottom line. Research suggests that Australian businesses lose up to $6.5 billion every year by failing to respond adequately and appropriately when employees experience mental health issues.
To help employers, SANE Australia has created a new initiative to promote better workplace mental health: Mindful Employer. The Mindful Employer website contains resources which helps managers to create a more positive and supportive workplace for everybody.
But on today, R U OK? Day, let's take the first step by turning to a colleague and asking, "are you okay?"
If you are feeling in distress, please call Lifeline - 13 11 14