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How COVID-19 Has Taken A Toll On Mental Health In Australia

 

October 10th is “Mental Health Day”. This year the theme was “Mental Health for All - Greater Investment - Greater Access” to emphasise the significance of establishing mental health care as a staple quality care which can be accessible to all. The ongoing pandemic creates the stage to show the world how important it is.

Key Statistics of Mental Health


  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), one in five Australians has some sort of mental illness
  • Women are more likely to be prone to mental illness or experience depression than men
  • Every day, on average, at least 6 Australians die by suicide, and at least 30 people attempt to take their own lives
  • More than 1 million Australians have professionally sought mental health support amid the pandemic

Australian government data reveals some alarming figures about the mental health conditions of citizens amid this COVID-19 pandemic [Mental illness: ABS | Australian Bureau of Statistics].

The most common type of mental illness is an anxiety disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. The next most common illness is depression.

Australia’s Department of Health statistics shows that more than 1 million people have sought professional advice for mental support. According to the survey, the hardest-hit state is Victoria after it has recorded 77 per cent higher cases than the rest of the country. In September and October, more than 3,50,000 Victorians reached out for professional help to deal with mental health issues.

What Changed During COVID-19?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions around the world and left many more struggling to cope with the fear of morbidity, mortality and the sudden breakdown of their daily routines.

People are flooded with conflicting and politicised messages of public health, loss of employment or housing, alienation from family and friends. On top of that, healthcare workers and other critical staff, and those with restricted access to COVID-19 security and other services, experience additional stressors.

ABS data also revealed that mental disorders were also more common in unemployed people (29%) and in people who had ever been incarcerated (41%). These facts may directly impact the mental health of Australians as well[2]:

  • Unemployment rate increased by 6.9%
  • Underemployment rate increased by 11.4%
  • Monthly work hours increased by 9 million hours

 

What are the Actions Taken by The Government?

In recent years, the government of Australia has started taking some strict measures for suicide prevention and has also been investing in mental health programs and research. The Federal Government has launched new ‘Suicide Preventions and Mental Health Initiatives’ in early 2020. Some actions are also being taken state-wise.

To provide support for mental health and well-being to the employees, the health department has started face to face support like the one from Counsellors or GP and online support like Student well-being hubs. Get the full details here

One of the primary focus of Safe Work Australia was to minimise the work-related risks to psychological health during their ongoing ‘National Safe Work Month’ campaign. 

How to Deal with an Employee with Mental Health Issues? 

In an earlier blog, we have highlighted how significant employee well-being is for productivity. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here.

Mental health is an integral part of cognitive well-being. Many employees continue working while dealing with this condition with less productivity. However, a supportive approach can bring out the best.

There are certain things to keep in mind when managing someone who has a mental health issue:

  • Communicate Without Being Judgemental:
  • If as an employer, you have some productivity concern for an employee, it may not necessarily be because of mental health issues. As an employer, you may not ask directly about their diagnosis; however, if you suspect mental health, you can support him psychologically without being judgemental about their

  • Consider the Emotional Triggers:
  • Employees who have mental health issues might feel triggered, especially when something changes within the company.

    An organisation revealed that some of their current employees felt triggered when they were asked for a Criminal History Check. As an employer, you can control it by providing them information about company policy.

  • Be Supportive:
  • While dealing with mental health issues, performance management requires to be supportive. For example, someone makes an error in a report. Instead of saying “This report is full of error”, it is better to say “I want this report to be error-free, let me know how I can help”. You are saying the same thing but with a different approach. This can make a difference.

  • Highlight Their Strengths:
  • Instead of showing them where they go wrong, you can highlight their strengths or previous accomplishments. This can make employees confident and feel valued.

  • Resolve Performance Issues:
  • Once you make them feel valued, now take the necessary steps to resolve performance issues.

  • Building a Positive Team Culture:
  • Engage employees to take part in different well-being programs. Set definite goals, provide feedback and let their voice be heard whenever possible to create a positive team culture.

Mental Health Matters

Mental health is one of the most pressing issues, especially given the current pandemic and its repercussions in 2020. A recent survey shows that Australia is likely to face complex situations socially and economically due to this pandemic. 

As humans, we often face challenges. Having better mental health helps to bounce back from any challenge quickly, whereas poor mental health makes it hard to function. Due to this pandemic and the ‘work from home’ situation, many people find it challenging to balance professional and personal life. On top of that, daily working hours also increase with the boundaries between home life and work-life diluting. So, this is the best time to take mental health seriously than ever.

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