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Almost 7 in 10 Aussies hide mental health struggles from employer


New data sourced for Mental Health Month 2023 reveals that stigma and unfair treatment is highest in the workplace when it comes to mental health, with 68% of people saying they would hide their mental health status from their employer. 

The survey into mental health perceptions and realities was conducted by Wayahead (Mental Health Association of NSW) and gained insights from 2000 respondents nationwide, half with lived experience of mental health issues and half without.  

Of those with lived experience, 38% say they have experienced unfair treatment by their workplace, while 53% say stigma is most prevalent in the workplace.  

Wayahead CEO, Sharon Grocott, said the survey also found that 88% of those with lived experience believe mental health stigma prevails. 

“While this is a slight improvement on our research from last year (94%), the data on workplace stigma is concerning. Stigma and discrimination violate basic human rights and have toxic effects on people experiencing mental health issues, reducing education and employment opportunities, and social inclusion,” she said.  

The survey also showed that 64% of people with lived experience of mental health hide it from others because of fear of discrimination – with the workplace (60%) and family (53%) factoring the highest.   

When it came to overcoming stigma, respondents said education about mental health was needed in an effort to overcome the stigma, with both sides of the survey showing that people believe public education is key.  

“We need to continue educating Australians in our school, workplace, family and community settings,” said Grocott.  

“At WayAhead, we are working hard to reduce the pervasive stigma that still exists around mental health through support programs, education, resources and advocacy.”  

Mental Health Month ambassador, 2023 Masterchef winner Brent Draper, said we need to normalise talking about mental health to destigmatise it.  

“There’s still so much stigma around the words “mental health”, and it needs to change in order for people to be able to put their hand up and ask for help, and get well,” he said.  

Executive Director of the Australian Association of Psychologists, Tegan Carrison, said the research suggested workplaces are lagging behind. 

“The WayAhead research demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do in reducing stigma and discrimination of mental health,” she said. 

“Stigma and fear of discrimination lessen the likelihood that people will seek the help they need. We also need to improve availability and access to person-centred mental health care when people do reach out for help.”  

During Mental Health Month, Wayahead is reminding us “we all have a role to play” when it comes to mental health and urges everyone to visit to discover what’s on offer to support their mental health.  

There are downloadable resources for everyone, including a Workplace Mental Health Month Toolkit especially designed for workplaces; and classroom resources for schools. 

The Mental Health Matters Awards will be announced at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney this Friday 6 October, where Brent Draper will share the story of his mental health journey.   

For more on Social and Emotional Wellbeing, click here.

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer and Deputy Content Manager at Akolade. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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