Mental health not on the corporate risk radar

by Iain Hopkins24 Sep 2012

Despite growing awareness that mental illness is widespread throughout the entire community, Australia’s top companies are failing to recognise and manage mental health risk in the workplace.

A poll of ASX Top 300 companies by Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) revealed that over 40% of participants did not perceive mental illness as a potential risk to their organisation, and of those that did, close to half, said their organisation did not have policies in place to manage this risk. 

In addition, nearly 70% did not have a dedicated and properly trained resource to identify and manage an employee suffering from mental illness, the poll found.

According to CSA’s chief executive Tim Sheehy, despite widespread commentary on the extent of mental health in the community, it still has not registered on the corporate radar. “In fact concern about mental health in the workplace seems to be at a similar stage as we were with OH&S in the construction industry 30 years ago when one or two fatalities were widely considered as an ‘unfortunate’ cost of doing business,” he said. “That degree of indifference would simply not be tolerated today.” 

Sheehy added that just as companies now have comprehensive OH&S policies and practices in place and a highly engaged board and executive to oversee and manage the risk of physical injury in the workplace, they also need to have similar practices in place to manage the risk of an employee suffering a mental illness.

"Statistics show that as many as one in five Australians suffers from mental illness, meaning there is a very strong likelihood that at some stage in our working lives many of us will work with someone suffering from some form of mental illness which may or may not have been diagnosed," Sheehy said.

Sheehy pointed to compelling statistics on just how prevalent mental illness is in the workplace. Research shows that Australian businesses lose over $6.5bn each year by failing to provide early intervention and treatment for employees with mental health conditions. In relation to psychological injury claims, work pressure accounts for around half of all claims, compared to harassment and bullying which account for around a quarter of claims.

‘Mental illness in the workplace is a reality. Improperly managed, it poses real risks in terms of reduced productivity, workplace conflict and loss of morale, not to mention the spectre of corporate and executive liability if these issues continue to be neglected by senior decision-makers,” he said. 

 Fast facts about mental illness in the workplace


  • A total of 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress
  • Stress-related workers’ compensation claims have doubled in recent years, costing over $10 billion each year
  • A survey of over 5,000 workers indicated that 25% of workers took time off each year for stress-related reasons
  • Work pressure accounts for around half of all psychological injury claims while harassment and bullying represent around a quarter of such claims
  • Australian businesses lose over $6.5bn each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions.


Get informed

This year, as a part of National Mental Health week, Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) has partnered with the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) and legal firm Minter Ellison Lawyers to host an event to raise awareness within corporate Australia of the prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace.

Chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission and patron of SANE Australia, the panel will include:


  • Rachel Clements, Director of Psychological Services, Centre for Corporate Health and ambassador for RUOK?
  • Therese Fitzpatrick, Workplace & Workforce Program Leader, beyondblue
  • Jack Heath, Chief Executive Officer, SANE Australia
  • Katy McDonald, Director People & Development, Minter Ellison Lawyers
  • Tim Sheehy, Chief Executive, Chartered Secretaries Australia



Thursday, 11 October 2012


12.15pm to 2.15pm


The Establishment Ballroom, Level 2, 252 George St, Sydney, NSW

Click here for further information


  • by Laura 26/09/2012 10:42:31 AM

    Are there any examples that HR can follow as to what type of policies to implment or what can be done to properly idenitify, treat and prevent mental health issues (related to Stress and otherwise).

  • by Theona 18/12/2012 12:39:07 PM

    Hello Laura, Beyond Blue have an excellent series of information leaflets on their website, great resources on the types of mental health issues and how to deal with them.

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