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Published September 14, 2017 (last updated June 25, 2020) -

Please note that the information provided below is relevant as of 14/09/17. To receive news on the latest legislative changes, sign up for our Free Monthly Newsletter.

Today, you may be asked by a friend, family member or colleague: ‘Are you OK?’

That is because today is R U OK? Day – a national day of action, dedicated to encouraging people to regularly ask each other ‘Are you OK?’. The campaign aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with family, friends and colleagues to help prevent small problems evolving into bigger, more serious issues.

It is often presumed an employee’s mental illness develops outside of the workplace. However, this does not mean that work colleagues may not be struggling. Staying connected with others even in the workplace is crucial to general health and wellbeing. Considering that 60% of employees’ waking hours are spent at work, it is important to know the best way to handle mental health within your workplace.

An ‘unhealthy’ work environment or a workplace incident can cause considerable stress and exacerbate, or contribute to, the development of mental illness. If employees are feeling isolated or hopeless it can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide. Research indicates that job stress and other work-related psychosocial hazards are emerging as the leading contributors to the burden of occupational disease and injury.

However, regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and work with. Recognising and promoting mental health is an essential part of creating a safe and healthy workplace. Importantly, managers and employees both have important roles to play in building a safe work environment, one that will not create or exacerbate mental health problems and where employees with mental illness are appropriately supported.

Today and every day, you could encourage employees to partake in mental awareness activities such as simply asking colleagues ‘are you OK? Being able to acknowledge mental illness and discuss it with employees is beneficial. If you feel unsure about how best to communicate with an employee regarding mental health issues, there are a number of health professionals (eg psychologists, social workers or occupational therapists with a mental health training background) who can help you work out the best approach.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, we can make sure you are aware of best practice policies or procedures for your business needs. Call Employsure today on 1300 651 415.

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About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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