Media releases

Lack of action on mental health leads to millions of “sickies” being taken each year but help is at hand

16 Jun 2014

Millions of Australians believe their workplace is not mentally healthy, fueling high numbers of sick days and revealing that too many workers face an unacceptable risk of developing depression and anxiety from job stress.

The findings are contained in new research that shows nine out of 10 Australian employees think a mentally healthy workplace is important, but half say that they don’t work in one, with these workers three times more likely to take sick days due to mental health problems compared to other workers.

The research also found that stigma is still prevalent in many workplaces and that workers in Queensland and agriculture are the least likely to report that their workplace is mentally healthy. Workers in Western Australia and in the construction industry are among the most likely to say they work in a mentally healthy environment.

The research has been released as beyondblue and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance unveil an Australian-first interactive guide that allows businesses to create a free, tailor-made mental health plan at

The Heads Up campaign, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, was launched last month to encourage business leaders to take action in the workplace on mental health and give it the same priority as physical health and safety. The new interactive guide will be launched at 10.30am today at Lend Lease, 825 Bourke St, Docklands by beyondblue Chairman The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC, business leaders and mental health advocates.

Mr Kennett said it is vital to the wellbeing of the community that employers promote good mental health.

“This research confirms that employers can reduce absenteeism by improving mental health in the workplace but many of them don’t understand the value of good mental health at work,” he said. “We’ve commissioned the research and now it’s our responsibility to inform the community about the findings and get everyone to lift their game. More than 2,500 Australians take their lives a year, which is much higher than the road toll. Employers not only have a work health and safety obligation to deliver good mental health in the workplace, but also a moral obligation to support their workers who often spend more time at work than anywhere else. From a mentally healthy workplace, productivity improvements naturally flow.

“We’ve developed an interactive guide to show employers and managers how to develop mentally healthy workplace regardless of the size or type of business. Simply visit and enter your business’ details to receive a tailor-made action plan and start reaping the benefits of a mentally healthy workplace. Your plan will recommend several actions for you to undertake and also provide guidance on how to implement it. We have a long way to go with workplace mental health, but I encourage employers and managers to log on and develop an action plan now.”

The research can be downloaded here. It was conducted by TNS, surveyed over 1,100 people and findings include: 

  • 91% of Australian workers rate mentally healthy workplaces as important, compared to 88% who say the same about physically safe workplaces 
  • Only 52% of workers agree their workplace is mentally healthy compared to 76% who say it is physically safe 
  • One in five has taken time off work in the past year because they’ve felt mentally unwell. This rises to 46% among workers who say their workplaces are mentally unhealthy and falls to 13% among workers who say their workplaces are mentally healthy 
  • At 46%, Queensland has the lowest proportion of workers who say their workplace is mentally healthy while at 62% WA has the highest 
  • Only 41% of agriculture and public administration and safety workers say they work in mentally healthy workplaces. This compares to 63% of construction workers. 

Recent PwC research commissioned by beyondblue outlining the economic benefits of investing in mental health in the workplace can be downloaded here and other research revealing that workplaces, which promote good mental health, can be downloaded here. Since launching one month ago, Heads Up has had about 2000 registrations and over 30,000 visits to the website.