Mental health issues: Gen Y “more accepting” than older generations

by Cameron Edmond03 Oct 2013

Compared to Baby Boomers, Gen Y employers are far more likely to be accepting of and employ candidates with mental illnesses, a report from McNair Ingenuity and WISE Employment has found.

The research surveyed 276 Australian SMEs, and found that 42% of Gen Y was likely to hire someone with mental illness, compared to 16% of Baby Boomers.

Matthew Lambelle, general manager of strategy and alliance at WISE Employment, said that this contrast offered hope to those with mental illnesses as Gen Y gains more hiring authority within organisations.

However, while the results may be promising for Gen Y, they still paint a bleak overall view for job-seekers suffering from mental illness. Twenty-seven per cent of all hiring managers stated they were willing to give someone with a mental illness a chance – 34% were “on the fence”, with 39% unlikely to employ a mental illness sufferer.

The main concerns that prevented them from hiring were fears of unpredictable or unstable behaviour (61%), a lack of understanding from co-workers (47%), and the inability to do the work (47%).

Mental illnesses deemed most ‘acceptable’ were depression (37%) and anxiety (32%).

Lambelle criticised these concerns as stigma-driven perceptions out of touch with reality.

“The majority of employers who had hired a person with a mental illness [found] the experience positive or very positive … less than one in ten reported a negative experience,” he said.

With Mental Health Week starting on Monday, employers should re-evaluate their perceptions of those with mental illnesses. Employers who have had positive experiences with mentally ill workers reported them to be hardworking (60%), fitting in well with the team (57%), and generally good for the company (51%).


Other key findings included:

  • 21% of employers cited hiring someone with a mental illness was “too great a risk”.


  • 62% stated their experience hiring a person with mental illness had been positive or very positive.
  • Those who had employed someone with a mental illness said giving someone a fair go (55%) and because they were the best candidate (33%) as the top reasons for doing so.
  • Employers stated they would be more likely to hire someone with a mental illness if they knew the employee was loyal and committed (41%), would be willing to take part in a ‘no strings’ attached trial period (40%), and if ongoing support and follow up from an outside agency was provided (36%).
  • Most employers (71%) were unaware of employment services that help those with mental illnesses find work. Eighty-one per cent were unaware of the support available for organisations who hire sufferers.


Do you employ any workers with mental illnesses? Please share your experiences in the comments.



  • by Lovelle 4/10/2013 7:32:13 AM

    Considering that mental illness is classed as a disability and protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, I find it disgusting that so many employers, especially the Baby Boomers, are not willing to even consider hiring someone with a mental illness without looking into reasonable adjustments that can be made or support available to both the employee and employer. No wonder so many people suffering from a mental illness do not feel comfortable disclosing this to potential employers, and as a result miss out on possible support available to them in the workplace. Working (in the right environment) can contribute greatly to improving someone's mental health so it is sad to see that so many people with a mental illness miss out on this opportunity.

  • by Sebastian Harvey 4/10/2013 12:56:09 PM

    'Mental Illness' is a very broad category. Some mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, can come and go. Others can be chronic and lifelong. Depending on how they are managed people with a mental illness can work very effectively. Support from an employer can go a long way (as it does when the illness or injury is physical). It is easy to confuse manageable mental illness with other psychological disorders. For example, it is generally regarded that a psychopath is not a mental illness but is rather a personality disorder and there is little understanding or agreement on how to treat such a disorder. It is not clear from the article here how mental illness was defined for those responding to the survey and whether disorders have been grouped with mental illness.

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