“Ahhhh so you’re the one with the emotional problems.” This is the statement that someone close to me was greeted with after they were asked to contact their employer’s Case Manager after recently having time off for depression and anxiety.

So how mentally healthy is your workplace? Despite large awareness campaigns, there still appears to be a lack of insight as to how supervisors, managers and staff can support someone returning to work after experiencing anxiety and/or depression.

For many people experiencing anxiety or depression, concerns over colleagues’ reactions or a lack of support can add significantly to existing stress. Being aware of potential barriers and taking steps to reduce these will help both individual employees and the workplace as a whole.

 When you consider that at any given time 1 in 5 employees are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition, this is a statistic that workplaces can no longer simply ignore. Another startling statistic is that untreated depression results in over 6 million working days lost in Australia each year. What could this be costing your organisation?

 The stigma surrounding anxiety and depression is a common barrier to many who need to seek attention or who are struggling to sustain their attendance at work.

 Barriers can include:

·      Fear that colleagues may find out about their diagnosis with possible negative impacts resulting

·      Loss of connection with colleagues

·      Lack of support from employers and managers

·      Uncertainly about the level or type of support available

·      Stigma associated with mental health conditions


There are some practical strategies your organisation can use to address barriers. The support of a manager or supervisor is the most crucial factor for people with a mental health condition remaining at or returning to work.

As a manager or leader you can:

·        provide mental health awareness training

·   speak openly about mental health conditions in the workplace and encourage others to do the same

·        promote a positive working environment by minimising workplace risks to mental health, such as job stress and preventative training such as resilience and stress management.

·        work with the individual about their needs for return to work. Don’t bombard them with questions and paperwork to fill out on their first day back and tell them they are running out of leave. Ask them about how you can support them and consider how you might manage any difficult conversations with empathy and insight.

·        draw on guidance from specialists or the employee's treating health professional (with their permission).


Promoting mental health in the workplace is everyone's responsibility. However small you decide to start, take the first step towards a more mentally healthy workplace today.   

PWC research shows that $2.30 is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

What could your organisation be doing to improve the mental health of staff and better assist staff returning to work after periods of time off for depression and anxiety?

For more information, contact Michelle Bakjac at Bakjac Consulting on 0412047590 for assistance with a range of training and consulting services to increase the mental health of your workplace.