Alleviating the cost of mental illness on business

Published 30/11/2021

Understanding the impact of Mental Health

Mental health has become a key conversation in Australia’s national discourse.  

It’s easy to see why.

According to the Black Dog Institute, 1 in 5 Australians have a diagnosed mental health issue. Throw in a global pandemic and the rates of depression and anxiety are only rising. At an individual level, the consequences of poor mental health can be catastrophic.

But what impact is it having on Australian businesses?

According to John Mannion, the Executive Director of the Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation, the impact is substantial.

‘’Lost productivity because of mental illness costs Australia 180 billion dollars a year, that’s 500 million dollars a day,’’ Mr Mannion explained in his exclusive Hoap Expert Series.

‘’We’ve really got to start to look at mental health in the work place a different way.’’

So how can companies address the wellbeing of their staff and reduce the significant impact it has on their bottom line?

Create a good culture, not just a good assistance program

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) with a focus on mental health and training should be a cornerstone of any organisation’s wellbeing policy. But the culture that surrounds the use of that assistance program is just as important. 46% of workers say their employer doesn’t proactively share information about their assistance programs, leaving many to suffer in silence. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) also identified that shame and stigma prevented many employees from using their mental health services, so it’s critical that leaders and managers normalise the use of assistance programs to keep their staff happy and healthy at work.

Follow the leader

Leading by example is not a new concept, but it’s exceptionally important in the mental health space. A publication from HBR indicates that managers and leaders best support their staff’s wellbeing when they themselves are vulnerable, share their own mental health journey and model healthy behaviours.


Connection and conversation is a sure-fire way to create a mentally healthy workplace. In fact, 57% of workers are comfortable with their manager proactively asking about their mental health and indicated a direct call from them is the best way to go about it. Empathy, compassion and authenticity should be kept in mind when initiating connection, so make sure you have the time to really listen if the answer to ‘are you okay’ is ‘no.’

Time off and flexible work arrangements

There’s no place for tokenism when it comes to dealing with mental health in the workplace. An organisation with a commitment to staff wellbeing must practice what it preaches and be supportive of employees if time away from work is a reasonable support mechanism to deal with their mental health challenge. Mr Mannion says ‘’providing time off for people to go to medical appointments is really powerful and doesn’t cost business a lot of money.’’

Alternative approaches

The complexities of mental health means there are a range of ways to manage it. While some methods may seem unconventional, they should still be explored. Mr Mannion says businesses should support their employees to engage in philanthropic activities and art therapies.

‘’We know for our own wellbeing that being part of something bigger than ourselves and actually giving something back is really positive for our mental health.’’

‘’Sometimes we can’t express how we’re feeling, yet art is a beautiful tool in which enabled us to do that.’’


Daily check-ins are a great way to foster mental health in the workplace and monitor the effectiveness of wellbeing initiatives. One way to do that is via an app-based service like Hoap. Hoap offers employees a range of tools and resources to foster their own wellbeing while giving leaders real time information on the health and wellbeing of their workplace.  

Crisis Support

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Line: 1300 659 467

Elevating Wellbeing and Performance, to learn more speak to our team today.

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