Implementing mental health initiatives in Australian business – triggers, facilitators and barriers

Employee mental health Mental health promotion Quality of work life Australia

There is significantly increasing awareness and interest within Australian workplaces of mental health issues.

However, in the course of the Productivity Commission’s 2019 Inquiry into Mental Health it has been recognised that there is little research on the experience of Australian workplaces in dealing with mental health issues.

Griffith University was commissioned by Ai Group to undertake research in order to help fill that void, and in particular explore the reasons why some local workplaces have taken initiatives on mental health, the nature of those initiatives, the barriers they encounter along the way and the results they see.

The first part of the study consisted of searching current academic research for evidence of what workplaces are doing about mental health. This review revealed a focus to date on establishing mental health as a workplace issue, rather than exploring what organisations are actually doing in response, why they are doing it and their experiences of managing mental health issues in the workplace.

The second component of the research involved six case studies of organisations from various industry sectors, including large and small businesses, all of whom had indicated they had taken some initiatives on mental health. The case studies were drawn from interviews with management in these businesses to identify the triggers for them taking action on mental health issues, the scope of initiatives undertaken, the results, any barriers to doing more and plans for further action.

Key research findings:

There are a wide range of initiatives being undertaken by the studied businesses with each implementing an average of seven separate initiatives.

The most common initiatives included:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • Mental health awareness day (eg RUOK day)
  • Mental health first-aid training
  • Organisation-wide meetings that included discussion of mental health issues

Factors that facilitated the introduction of employee mental health initiatives included:

  • The personal commitment of an organisational leader to improving the organisation’s response to mental health. This can stem from direct or indirect personal experience with mental health challenges
  • A clear business case for mental health support
  • An organisational culture that is aligned with or fits mental health activities
  • Activities to develop leaders who know their people and so can identify any mental health issues that develop
  • A budget for activities to address employee mental health
Publication Details