Introduction part one

Understanding mental health and its role in the workplace.



How will my workplace benefit from this action?

A mentally healthy workplace is good for business. A ‘mentally healthy workplace’ means one where bosses care about mental health. There are many benefits, like:

  • better work
  • improved work culture
  • less staff leaving.

Stopping mental injury is your job as an employer. So is promoting a mentally healthy workplace. (Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004).

No two workplaces are the same. How we make a mentally healthy workplace looks different for everyone. Knowing where to start can feel overwhelming, but getting started doesn’t have to be. That’s why the Toolkit keeps all workplaces in mind, no matter where you are in your journey.

This action is a first step and aims to:

  1. explain mental health
  2. let you know what you have to do to support workers and stop mental harm happening at work

Do you need immediate help?

Remember, WorkSafe's toolkit is an extra resource. It is not for emergencies.

If you, or someone else, needs urgent help please contact emergency services on 000 or for 24/7 telephone mental health support call:

Step 1: Understanding 'mental health' and 'mental illness'

'Mental health' is when we can cope with normal stresses in life, can work well, and contribute to our community (World Health Organisation 2005).

It's about how we relate to other people, manage our emotions and generally get through everyday life.

Positive mental health happens when we are able to thrive, not just survive.

It's about more than having 'thick skin' and self-care. Good Mental health needs a supportive, healthy environment that lets us be at our best.

'Mental illness' is a diagnosed condition that changes how we act and think.

These can be mood disorders like depression, anxiety or other personality disorders.

Living with a mental illness or disorder can make everyday tasks harder.

People sometimes think that having good mental health means you do not have a mental illness.

But mental health can change whether you have a mental illness or not.

You can have no diagnosed conditions but still have a hard time with your mental health. For example, someone who is mentally healthy might sometimes have anxiety.

You can also feel mentally healthy while having a mental illness.

It is important to know where our thoughts and feelings come from so we can stop any mental harm.

Step 2: What do workplaces need to do to protect the mental health of workers?

Australians spend a lot of time at work and jobs play a big part in looking after mental health.

But since mental health is so complex, what are our employer’s responsibilities?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 says employers must keep workplaces mentally and physically safe. This is required by law.

Employers also have to talk to staff about anything that may affect their health and safety.

Each Toolkit action can help you keep your workplace safety. This is a step by step process to:

  1. understand any dangers at work
  2. assess risks to your staff's mental health and wellbeing
  3. talk to staff about their health and safety
  4. put changes in place
  5. review and keep improving

In short, it's your job to create a work culture where people feel supported, respected and safe to speak up.

Sometimes, things outside of work can affect mental health. The goal is to make sure no one leaves work worse than when they arrived.

Step 3: What does a mentally healthy workplace look like?

To keep work mentally healthy, look out for the warning signs and act on them. If anything bad happens, be sure to support recovery.

A mentally healthy workplace is one where:

  • everyone looks out for each other
  • you put mental health first
  • mental health is openly talked about
  • mental health support meets everyone's needs
  • everyone can see how supporting mental health is put first

You can keep work mentally healthy by following these simple steps. If you know the signs, your business can thrive.

Knowledge check and next steps

Congratulations, you've almost completed part one of the introduction!

Let's take a moment to recap your learning so far:

  • Mental health exists on a sliding scale and changes over time.
  • Mental health is how well you manage your thoughts and feelings.
  • Mental illness is a diagnosed condition.
  • Both affect daily life.
  • You must protect and promote your workers’ mental health.
  • A workplace can have a positive or negative impact on a person’s mental health.

Next steps

If you haven’t already, head back to your Toolkit dashboard and bookmark it.

Get started on:

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