employee mental health

Why mental health matters to your business

Employee mental health is an important topic of conversation. Poor mental health can affect anyone at any time. 1 in 4 people in the UK(1)and 1 in 5 people in Australia(2)are estimated to have a mental health problem each year. Despite increasing awareness of mental health disease, stress, depression and anxiety are the leading causes of work-related ill health in the UK(3). In Australia, 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment(4).

With full-time employees spending close to 1/3 of their life at work, encouraging a positive and proactive attitude towards mental health in the workplace has a significant impact on both wellbeing and productivity.

The effects of mental health reach far beyond the workplace and touch every single aspect of someone’s life, from their relationships to lifestyle and physical health too.

Crucially, mental health diseases are a devastating cause of loss of life, with one death by suicide in the UK every 2 hours, and at least six Australians die from suicide with a further thirty attempts to take their own life(5).

Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst young people aged 20-34 and the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK(6) and the leading cause of death for Australians aged 25-44 and the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24(7).


Investing in mental health 

Poor mental health in the workplace amasses to a phenomenal cost of £33bn-£42bn per year in the UK(8)and $10.9 billion per year in Australia(9).

Deloitte conducted a systematic review of the available literature and calculated that putting measures in place to support mental health had an average return of investment (ROI) of 4:1, meaning that for every investment made, the gain is four times as great.

The research showed that the ROI of early-stage supporting activities through having an organisational culture of openness, acceptance and awareness can be as high as 8:15.


A work culture and environment that is supportive of mental health benefits from:

  1. Reduced absenteeism. Absenteeism refers to when someone is present at work but not productive. This is incredibly common when it comes to mental health disease. A fear of talking about mental health, of being considered unfit to work or unsuitable for promotion leads to a culture where employees, of every seniority, will drag themselves into work, even though they feel (and are) unable to work.
  2. Less time off work. People with a mental health condition are three times more likely to have a long term period off for sickness.
  3. Fewer job losses. Three hundred thousand people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year.
  4. Less employee turnover. There are human and economic costs to employers and losses in productivity when needing to find and train a new employee.
  5. Less stress on other staff. Poorly managed or supported mental health problems frequently result in increased workloads and stress for other team members.


How to support mental health in the workplace

There are several ways that you can openly help your employees to develop and maintain a healthy mental state while at work.

Produce, implement and communicate a ‘mental health at work’ plan: The mental health charity, MIND, has produced an excellent and freely accessible template called the “Wellness Action Plan” (WAP). The WAP is inspired by an evidence-based system used worldwide by people to manage their mental health. There is a WAP document available for employers and one for employees, so do take a look or show it to your employer to get the conversation started.

Develop mental health awareness amongst employees: There are many ways of raising employee awareness. Some businesses have Mental Health First Aiders. These are employees who have voluntarily attended company-sponsored training so that they can recognise mental health conditions in the workplace and signpost towards support. Another idea is to organise Mental Health Awareness & Wellbeing weeks, including talks for staff, on topics such as burnout, stress and wellbeing.

Provide employees with the right working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for development: Unilever is a good example here, having put together a whole global health strategy based on a four-pillar wellbeing framework. Their wellbeing strategy aims to create a working environment that is supportive of employees’ personal lives while meeting the company’s business needs. They achieve this through various ways, including ‘agile working’, “providing employees with safe, adaptable working practices and technology, allowing them to perform their job anywhere, at any time, as long as the needs of the business are met.”

Promote active people management through line managers and supervisors: To create a culture that supports positive mental health, senior management needs to be well informed and in full support. Ways of ensuring this include organising specific training for managers and developing a mental health charter that requires the signatures of senior management.

Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing: At SiSU Health Group, we’ve implemented a simple stress indicator to aid monitoring employee wellbeing. We do this using confidential surveys on the SiSU Health Station, that are reviewed monthly by management. The survey is using the Perceived Stress measure from the Common Cold Project by Dr.Cohen. It uses a 5-point frequency scale; respondents indicate how often during the past month, they found their lives to be unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded. Ask us more about our Stress Awareness Test .

 Start the discussion: Although the modern world is more knowledgeable and open about employee mental health than ever before, there remains plenty of room for improvement. By learning from and supporting one another and bringing mental health and wellbeing to the attention of all employers, we’ll be doing every single employee and employer a valuable, potentially life-saving, favour.


Need help engaging your staff?

Speak to a SiSU Health Group consultant on our Stress Awareness testing and mental health partnerships. We can help you correctly engage and educate your team together.




  1. McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.
  2. Facts & Figures about Mental Health. Black Dog Institute Australia https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/facts_figures.pdf?sfvrsn=8
  3. Lelliott, P., Tulloch, S., Boardman, J., Harvey, S., & Henderson, H. (2008). Mental health and work. Retrieved from gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212266/hwwb-mental-health-and-work.pdf
  4. Facts & Figures about Mental Health. Black Dog Institute Australia https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/factsheets/facts_figures.pdf?sfvrsn=8
  5. The Australian Senate. (2010). The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia Report of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
  6. Mental Health Foundation. (2019).Suicide. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.u…[Accessed 4 Jul. 2019].
  7. http://www.aihw.gov.au/deaths/causes-of- death
  8. Mental health and employers: The case for investment. (2017). [online] Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/public-sector/deloitte-uk-mental-health-employers-monitor-deloitte-oct-2017.pdf [Accessed 1 Jul. 2019].
  9. https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014.pdf?sfvrsn=90e47a4d_6