A survey released this week reveals that reported mental health issues in the workplace have risen an alarming 56% in the last year. Perhaps even more concerning, is the finding that more than half of the companies surveyed had at least one of their employees attempt or commit suicide in the last year.

Managers are struggling to cope, with 81% of company representatives saying they were spending 25% of their time managing employees with mental health issues.

The study by the law firm Minter Ellison surveyed 200 companies and revealed that one third of these organisations had 15 or more employees recording mental health issues.

Whilst this study highlights the scope of the problem, it is also becoming evident from other research how these issues translate into significant and avoidable costs. A 2015 report by Comcare estimated that their average mental health claim cost $342,000 and this segment accounted for 37% of all payouts.

On a national level, is estimated that Australian insurers paid out approximately $10 billion in stress claims in 2015.

Some of the main challenges revealed by the Minter Ellison report included:

  • Managing staff with mental health issues is an increasing concern for Australian employers.
  • Organisations are not measuring the impact of staff with mental health issues on their workplaces.
  • Most organisations do not have specific policies or procedures for identifying and managing staff mental health issues.
  • Opportunities are apparent in terms of increased training and involvement by managers and executive teams in the management of staff mental health issues.
  • Half of participants feel they need additional skills and knowledge to proactively identify and manage staff mental health issues.

So what can be done to improve employee and organisational resilience?

The benefits of improving mental strength at work are compelling, with the World Health Organisation estimating there is a 400% ROI for every dollar spent improving workplace mental resilience.

In my role as a leadership resilience speaker I get to interview a number of senior executives across a wide range of industries. In my experience most organisations approach the prevention of psychological injury in a reactive manner.

The critical success factors of leadership teams that deliver strong sustainable results, is that their mental resilience strategy:

  1. Is linked to the organisations vision and values – it is not something extra. Optimizing employee resilience should be a leaders #1 priority in volatile and uncertain times.
  2. Leaders “walk the talk” – there is a large body of evidence that shows that the best predictor of a sustainable high performing tribe – is a sustainable high performing leader.
  3. Is addressed at the individual, tribal, and organisational level – cultural change is a stubborn beast. Only rigorous planning and sustained effort will move the needle in the right direction.

It is also apparent that the language used should be jargon free and not intimidating. Below are 5 practical ways each of us can follow to help a workmate who may be struggling.

This GREEN ZONE boost tip relates to ritual 6 – ASK R U OK? – from the 7 Rituals of Resilient Leaders.

Your organisation may be interested in experiencing the 7 Rituals of the Resilient Leader Workshop –    Sign up for our free poster and course to learn how to create rituals that improve your resilience, mood, and performance.

7 rituals poster 4 blog