An introduction to workplace mental health

Understand the signs of a positive and mentally healthy workplace, and what you can do to prevent harm and create safe spaces.


Step 1: Learn about workplace mental health

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and free from risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes psychological health and safety. You can also think about this as mental health.

Psychological health and safety can feel like a big concept, but it doesn't have to be. Simply put, it's about:

  1. Doing things that promote positive mental health at work, and
  2. Doing things that prevent harm to mental health as a result of work.

Mental health is 'a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community' (United Nations, 2017).

In this Toolkit topic, you'll learn about how to create a positive and mentally healthy workplace. In the next Toolkit topic, we'll step you though how to prevent harm to mental health, or manage it where it is unavoidable.

Key stats and facts

Step 2: Understand the signs of a mentally healthy workplace

A mentally healthy workplace is one where employees feel respected, supported and safe to speak up. They're given the appropriate tools, resources and training to thrive in their roles, and when they leave for the day, they are mentally and psychologically no worse off than how they arrived – perhaps a little more tired though, no doubt!

In a mentally healthy workplace:

  • mental health is everyone's responsibility
  • mental health is considered in every way you do business
  • everyone contributes to a culture where people feel safe and supported to talk about mental health
  • reasonable adjustments are made to support the mental health needs of individuals and teams

Step 3: How to promote a positive and mentally healthy workplace

There are many factors in the workplace that are within the control and influence of employer and that can be used to promote a positive and mentally healthy workplace. In fact, there are 11 well known factors. We've listed these in the drop down menu below:

But first, check out this video for a quick introduction to these work-related factors that impact mental health!

Work-related factors that promote positive mental health

Encouraging and promoting these factors at work will lead to a positive and mentally healthy workplace, where everyone can thrive. A mentally healthy workplace isn't just good for people though, it's good for business too. Workplaces that invest in positive mental health see increased productivity, improved workplace culture, reduced staff turnover and increased client satisfaction.

Step 4: What happens when factors that impact mental health aren't managed well?

If not managed well, these factors can become hazards and pose a risk to the physical and psychological health of employees. An employee who remains at work despite experiencing poor mental health can lead to lower productivity, reduced morale and increased absences and mental injury claims. It could even lead to staff resignations, requiring additional time and money to hire and train new staff in resignations, requiring additional time and money to hire and train new staff.

The diagram below shows you the relationship between a positive and mentally healthy workplace where these work-related factors are promoted, and a psychologically unsafe workplace when these factors are not managed well, leading to harm.

This picture is of a digram that shows the relationship between well managed and poorly managed work-related factors that impact on workplace mental health. The far left of the spectrum shows that when these factors at work are well managed, it leads to positive outcomes and mentally healthy workplaces. The far right of the spectrum shows that where these factors are not well managed, it have negative outcomes leading to physical and mental injuries.

In the next Toolkit topic we show you how to prevent and manage these hazards, and prevent harm to mental health occurring. Interestingly, some of these hazards are actually always present, and can’t be prevented, but harm can be.

Let's get started with learning about how to prevent mental injuries.

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.