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Mental Health Awareness In The Workplace

Statistically, 1 in 5 people suffers from mental illness in New Zealand at any given time. 

I work in an office in Auckland Central that has about 300 employees. So statistically speaking about 60 of them are working with a mental illness of some description and degree. That’s a very large number.

These colleagues may be suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or some other condition that’s impacting their daily life. There are also different stages that range from mild to debilitating and severe.


Firstly, would you know which one of them is having these types of difficulties?

And secondly, if you did know, would you know how to offer your support to them?

Mental Health Awareness still has a certain stigma attached to it and people are afraid to confide how they are feeling. The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand have been organising Mental Health Awareness Week since 1993 and their main aim is to remove the stigma around mental health and offer information and support to anyone who feels they might be struggling.

I recently read about a young woman who worked for Auckland Transport. She didn’t turn up for work one day and it transpired a few days later that she had sadly taken her own life. I felt extremely sorry for her and her colleagues. I wondered to myself, did any of her workmates even realise there was something wrong and she was unwell? If I worked with her, would I have seen the signs? Probably not was my conclusion. It’s hard to be aware of the signs you need to look out for and just because someone may have suffered mental illness, it doesn’t make them an expert at spotting it in others or knowing what exactly they should do about it.

The purpose for writing this is to create awareness of what an impact mental illness can have in the workplace and to create an environment of education and compassion for it. People have to become comfortable acknowledging, dealing with and embracing it. Mental Health is important and mental illness is not going to go away anytime soon. Bringing awareness and acting now is of the utmost importance. Nobody wants one of their workmates not turning up one day and then being left to wonder if there were any signs and why they didn’t see it.

This month the Open Minds was launched by the Mental Health Foundation. It’s a programme that’s designed to bring awareness of mental health issues in the workplace. How to recognise it and more specifically, how to support it.

It works to further break down the stigma around the topic and recognises that our colleagues that are suffering from this condition can still be contributing in a very important way and creating value for the business they are a part of.

It’s the first programme of its kind in the workplace that I’m aware of and I encourage companies to embrace this programme. We need to be working toward providing an environment of mental wellbeing for all employees that go beyond just offering EAP services and good intentions.

If you’re feeling like you’re struggling to cope and you’re constantly overwhelmed, do not be afraid to reach out. Talk to family, friends or seek out the advice of a doctor you trust. You can enlist the help of EAP Services. The Lifeline 24/7 Helpline is 0800 543 354.

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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