What is mental ill health?

Mental Health 11 Jan 2019


What is Mental Ill Health?

We all experience feeling down or stressed at times.   This doesn’t necessarily mean we have a mental illness, but rather that we all have ‘mental health’.  What determines whether our mental health is a ‘problem’ or not depends on the symptom severity, duration and impact on our life.

A mental ‘illness’ is a health problem that has the potential to affect a person’s

  • mood, thinking and behaviour;
  • relationships;
  • ability to engage in their work and
  • everyday life.

For some, symptoms limit their ability to cope and quality of life, however others are able to manage their symptoms and get on with their lives.

How Common is Mental Illness ?

  • About 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness.
  • Over a lifetime, 46% of adults will experience a mental disorder such as depression & anxiety
  • This relates to a formal diagnosis; however, many more people experience symptoms without ever being diagnosed.

In Australia, the most common conditions are anxiety, depression and substance-use problems.

For some, mental illness is only brief then resolve, a bit like a cold or flu. For others, it can be chronic and symptoms have to be managed, just like someone would have to managing diabetes. Just as physical illness varies in type, duration and severity, so too does mental illness vary.

Leadership teams are in a prime position to support and encourage the well being of the people they oversee and by doing so, support and promote the health of the organisation. Supervisors and Managers with skills in understanding mental health in the workplace will contribute to reducing the risk in your workplace.

  1. Staff will be more engaged – engaged staff will be more motivated and productive, morale will be higher and a happier and healthier workplace retain good staff;
  2. Employees care about positive workplaces – being known as a workplace that promotes positive mental health and well being can help to recruit and retain the best and brightest people;
  3. It makes legal sense – when it comes to workplace mental health, employers must follow certain legislative requirements and responsibilities under anti-discrimination, privacy, and work health and safety legislation;
  4. It has a positive social impact – a mentally healthy workplace can improve the quality of life of employees and their families and positively influence community attitudes about mental health.

For more information on how to Supervisors can impact the workplace and the tools available to help them contribute to mentally healthy workplaces go to our page on  Understanding Mental Health in the Workplace.


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