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Mental health

Last updated April 2021

This chapter explains mental health risks in the workplace, how to reduce those risks and how to manage a worker who suffers from mental illness.

Your health and safety obligations in relation to mental illness

Under health and safety legislation, your business has an obligation to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and wellbeing of your workers and other people impacted by your business, e.g. contractors, volunteers or apprentices.

This includes taking steps to minimise the risk of:

  • causing or aggravating mental illness or mental health problems; and
  • someone with a mental illness causing harm to anyone else in your workplace.
Definition: Mental Illness

Mental illness is a health problem that affects how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with other people.
Important: Government statistics indicate that one in five Australian adults will experience a mental illness in any given year, and around 45% of Australians aged between 16 and 85 will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.

Mental illness is one of the biggest health issues in the Australian community, which means mental health is a major issue for you as an employer.

There are many different types of mental illness, with varying degrees of severity. The most common include:

  • mood disorders, e.g. depression and bipolar disorder;
  • anxiety;
  • personality disorders, e.g. obsessive compulsive disorder;
  • eating disorders, e.g. bulimia; and
  • psychotic disorders, e.g. schizophrenia.