Research projects

Promoting employee mental health through the development of managers’ psychological capital: A controlled field experiment

Principal researchers

Dr Angela Martin1
Dr Kristy Sanderson, Menzies Research Institute1
Associate Professor Jenn Scott1
Fiona Cocker and Sarah Dawkins, PhD Students1
Professor Paula Brough2


1 University of Tasmania
2 Griffith University



Co-funded with

Australian Research Council $265,000
WorkCover Tasmania $70,000

Award type

ARC Linkage Grant

Project completion year


Project brief

This three-year project, promoted as the ‘Business in Mind’ program, evaluated a mental health promotion intervention in the small-to-medium business sector. The project was also funded by WorkCover Tasmania and the Australian Research Council and has the support of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Managers have been identified as a pivotal occupational group for this research and intervention for a number of reasons. Prevalence rates for DSM-IV depression diagnoses in the National Mental Health Survey were higher among managers than any other occupational group. Other studies have shown that one third of managers have mental health levels comparable to, or worse than, psychiatric outpatients.

Evaluations of workplace mental health promotion interventions targeted at leaders and managers within organisations are a high priority research objective. However, many of the problems identified are particularly pronounced in Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who have been identified as a sector needing ‘special attention’ because their knowledge, competence and financial resources to carry out interventions are limited. Strategies that are routinely employed by larger organisations, such as Employee Assistance Programs, mental health literacy workshops or stress management training, are difficult to implement and are infrequently adopted by SMEs. Owner/managers of SMEs may also be more vulnerable to mental health problems due to high potential for a number of risk factors to be present, such as financial pressures, social isolation and long work hours. 

The primary aim of the study was to pilot a workplace mental health promotion intervention targeting SMEs and gather data about feasibility, efficacy and consumer satisfaction. 

Throughout the project, owners and managers of small-to-medium businesses were provided with a free DVD and resource kit to help them manage mental health problems in the workplace. The resources help owners and managers to:

  • recognise the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in themselves and their employees
  • manage mental health issues in the workplace
  • learn skills that could help prevent depression, including stress management, positive relationships, building resilience and balancing work with other parts of life.

The DVD featured interviews with mental health and business experts, owners and managers discussing their own mental health challenges and those of their employees. As part of the research design, all participants received the DVD and resource kit, with some participants also having access to telephone counselling.

The full research report will be available in March 2014.



Martin, A.J., Sanderson, K. S., Scott, J.S., & Brough, P. (2009). Promoting mental health in small-medium enterprises: An evaluation of the ’Business in Mind’ program. BMC Public Health, 9:239.

Dawkins, S., Martin, A., Scott, J. Sanderson, K. (2012). Building on the positives: A review and critical analysis of the construct of Psychological Capital. Journal of Organisational and Occupational Psychology.


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