By Phillipa Wilson, Founder and MD of Premium Health

Yesterday morning, news of Australian business mogul James Packer’s resignation shocked the nation. The billionaire’s decision to relinquish his reign of the Crown Resorts kingdom – for the second time in a decade, this time owing to “mental health issues” – sent the casino group’s stocks falling to $12.87 within hours. Ever since, the media has been abuzz with a Spanish inquisition into Packer’s personal life.

But perhaps his departure shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Mental health doesn’t discriminate. We often assume that those at the top of their game are safe, but every person – no matter their relative circumstances – is at risk. In fact, recent research notes that 45% of all Australians (aged 18-45) will be affected by mental health issues at some point in their lives. And with 450 million reported cases of mental health issues worldwide, it remains one of our society’s most prevalent health concerns.

However, only half of the Australian workforce (56%) believe that their leadership values or prioritises mental health. With this in mind, perhaps the attentions of the aforementioned Spanish inquisition should be turned inwards towards our own workplaces, and how our mental health support fares in its ability to address the epidemic.

Mental health vs Mental illness: What’s the difference?

First, it is important to note that the terms “mental illness” and “mental health” – although often used interchangeably – mean quite different things.

In the same way that “health” is an umbrella term for a person’s physical state, mental health houses various issues. They don’t all necessarily need medical treatment, or even diagnosis, although – as seen with Packer’s departure – low mental health can be debilitating and is said to be more common than depression. Stress levels, resilience, the ability to process change, concentration levels, and general emotions are all mental health risks and symptoms of a need for support.

Although mental illnesses are included under the mental health umbrella, they remain more severe, equating to diagnosable conditions or medically treatable cases of depression, anxiety and more complex psychological disorders. But those with low mental health are more likely to trigger and suffer from diagnosable disorders, so they are intrinsically connected.

A little too late: were Packer’s warning signs ignored?

Whilst the outward symptoms of mental health issues are often unique to each individual, any inkling of a struggle should be grounds enough to address the potential problem. Yesterday’s reporting cited various interviews with Packer in which ‘the king of Crown’ repeatedly expressed concerns about his stress levels and state of mind. He noted in October that recent circumstances had caused a loss of friends, notable weight gain and a personal evolution into an almost “reclusive” state.

This, along with repeated mentions of being “terrified”, “let down” and under significant financial and personal stress should perhaps have raised a red flag for people within the company. But we cannot speculate about the extent to which this actually happened without comment from Crown about their existing strategies to improve workplace wellbeing. Either way, the takeaway is clear: businesses should be doing all they can to support their entire body of staff to proactively realise better mental health outcomes.

Keeping the kingdom together with better mental health strategies   >

A recent report from BeyondBlue found that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion each year. $4.7 billion of this is attributed to absenteeism, $6.1 billion to presenteeism (unnecessary overtime) and $146 million to compensation claims.

Additionally, one in every five Australians (21%) have taken time off work over the last year owing to stress, anxiety, depression or general mentally instability. And 35 per cent of employees still choose to hide their mental health concerns from their management teams.

The movement for better mental health outcomes in the workplace is not without vested interest from a business perspective either: another recent report from PWC cites that for every $1 invested in mental health, Australian businesses – on average – welcome a $2.30 return.

Corporations – for the most part – find it easy to talk about work performance. Why, then, can’t we talk about mental health comfortably? With proactive mental health and wellbeing programs, companies can realise a workforce which benefits from reduced stress, increased productivity, improved relations and reduced absenteeism.

We can’t always prevent bad relations with Chinese investors, a split from Mariah Carey or billions of dollars of debt, but we can take proactive steps to help our staff – no matter how senior – improve their mental resilience and ability to reach out for help when needed, well before they feel the need to pack it all in.

Phillipa Wilson is the Founder and Managing Director of Premium Health, an RTO that delivers premium health outcomes within Australian workforces including mental health and wellbeing training www.premiumhealth.com.au .

Premium Health offers mental health training including mental health awareness and effective conversations and Mental Health First Aid at your workplace and public venues across Australia.

Find out more about why you should be investing in mental health training for your business today. 

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