Hidden Workplace Depression - NFP Research
12 November 2013 at 9:00 am
Almost 50 per cent of Australian workers who had taken time off work because of depression kept the reason hidden from their employer according to a large scale national study released by Not for Profit organisation SANE Australia.
The Impact of Depression at Work: Australia Audit research involving more than 1000 workers found almost double the number of Australians had not told their employer their depression was the reason for their time off, as compared with workers surveyed in Europe.
Almost 1 in 2 who hadn’t informed their employer (48 per cent) had felt they would put their job at risk if they told their employer the reason for time off.
“It’s concerning that despite all the good work done to increase awareness about depression, many people still don’t feel its okay to talk about their illness,” SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath said.
“Depression means more than just feeling down. It is a serious condition which affects every aspect of a person's life, including relationships at work and home.
“Not disclosing a mental illness increases stress and prevents access to the very support that can promote successful employment. With one in five Australians experiencing some form of mental illness every year, we are talking about as many as 2 million facing difficulties in the workplace.”
The research found that Australian workers with depression took much less time off than those in Europe.
For Australians diagnosed with depression, the average number of working days taken off during their last episode was 14.6 days compared to 35.9 days reported by European workers.
“Further research is needed to determine why people are returning to work sooner in Australia. It may be people are getting better treatment or it may be because of the greater stigma attached to mental illness,” Heath said.
The research found that Australian managers are far behind their European counterparts when it comes to knowledge of the days lost due to depression.
Over half of managers have no support from a human resources department while almost 1 in 3 (29 per cent) have no formal support or resources. Australian managers are also calling for more support from HR departments (where they have one), more training on mental health and more counselling for staff.
Heath said the research suggests stigma surrounding mental illness was playing a bigger role in attitudes in Australia, compared with views in some European countries.
“Increasing awareness around mental illness must go hand in hand with a change in attitudes and behaviours. That is why we need a targeted and comprehensive campaign to reduce stigma across the full spectrum of mental illness,” Heath said.
SANE Australia is hosting a national Round Table in Sydney, drawing together stakeholders from the business, government, and Not for Profit sectors, to develop recommendations for action.
The Impact of Depression at Work: Australia Audit surveyed 1031 adults aged 16-64 Australia-wide. All workers, including a sub-sample of managers (32 per cent), have worked within the last 12 months. The survey is part of a broader global audit scheduled for release early in 2014.