Mental Health and Work

2225-7985 (online)
2225-7977 (print)
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The costs of mental ill-health for individuals, employers and society at large are enormous. Mental illness is responsible for a very significant loss of potential labour supply, high rates of unemployment, and a high incidence of sickness absence and reduced productivity at work. In particular, mental illness causes too many young people to leave the labour market, or never really enter it, through early moves onto disability benefit. Despite these very high costs to the individuals and the economy, there is only little awareness about the connection between mental health and work, and the drivers behind the labour market outcomes and the level of inactivity of people with mental ill-health. This series contributes to filling that knowledge gap. It offers both a general overview of the main challenges and barriers to better integrating people with mental illness in the world of work, as well as a close look at the situation in specific OECD countries.
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Mental Health and Work: Australia

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07 Dec 2015
9789264246591 (PDF) ;9789264246584(print)

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Tackling mental ill-health of the working-age population is a key issue for labour market and social policies in OECD countries. OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in keeping people with mental ill-health in employment or bringing those outside of the labour market back to it, and in preventing mental illness. This report on Australia is the ninth and last in a series of reports looking at how the broader education, health, social and labour market policy challenges identified in Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work (OECD, 2012) are being tackled in a number of OECD countries. It concludes that policy thinking in Australia shows well-advanced awareness both of the costs of mental illness for society as a whole and of the health benefits of employment. However, challenges remain in: making employment issues a concern of the health care services; helping young people succees in their future working lives; making the workplace a safe, supportive psychosocial environment; and better designing and targeting employment services for jobseekers with mental ill-health.

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  • Foreword

    The mental health of the working-age population is becoming a key issue in labour market and social policies in many OECD countries. It has been neglected for too long despite the high – and growing – cost of poor mental health to people and society at large. Now, however, OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in improving the employment opportunities for people with mental ill-health – particularly among the young. Policies should also seek to support employees who struggle in their jobs and help them avoid long-term sickness and disability caused by mental disorders.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    Throughout the OECD, there is growing recognition that mental health is a major issue for social and labour market policies. Mental illness exacts a heavy price on people, employers, and the economy at large, affecting wellbeing and employment, and causing substantial productivity losses.

  • Assessment and recommendations

    Mental ill-health exacts a high price on Australian society, in terms of individual well-being – at any given moment one in five Australians have a mental disorder – and high economic costs. The direct medical and nonmedical costs of poor mental health are estimated to amount to 2.2% of Australia’s GDP, or AUD 28.6 billion per year. Adding indirect costs, such as productivity loss or sickness absence, nearly doubles that amount.

  • Mental health and work challenges in Australia

    This chapter builds on the findings of the 2012 OECD report Sick on the Job? to highlight the main challenges Australia faces in the area of mental health and work. It offers an overview of the current labour market performance of people with mental health problems in Australia compared to other OECD countries, and considers their economic wellbeing. The chapter also describes the roles of the different tiers of government and other actors in Australian policy making.

  • Mental health services and the integration of employment support in Australia

    This chapter discusses Australia’s mental health policy and assesses the effectiveness of the mental health system in providing the right treatment to people with mild-to-moderate mental disorders. Subsequently, it discusses the role of general practitioners and the accessibility of specialist mental health care. Finally, it reviews measures to integrate employment and mental health services.

  • Mental health support for young Australians and their transition from school to work

    This chapter assesses the capacity of Australia’s school and youth care system to support mental wellbeing among young people and assure timely support for those who face mental health problems. It then goes on to discuss actions to prevent early school leaving. The chapter ends with an examination of measures to ease the school-to-work transition and efforts to stimulate labour market participation among young adults with mental disorders.

  • Workplace mental health support in Australia

    This chapter evaluates the extent to which the Australian workplace contributes to good mental health and offers a supportive environment to those people who are confronted with mental health problems. It looks at the relationship between working conditions, mental health and productivity and then considers policies to prevent psychosocial risks at work, to promote mental health, and to support workers with mental disorders. The chapter ends with a review of sickness management and return-to-work strategies, and particularly the roles of employers, governments, and general practitioners.

  • Improving the labour market participation of people with mental health problems in Australia

    This chapter looks at the role Australia’s benefit system plays in ensuring a secure income in periods of inactivity for people with mental ill-health and helping them return to the labour market. The chapter devotes particular attention to identifying mental health problems among jobseekers and the employment support provisions that are available. The chapter ends with a discussion of the recent reforms in the disability benefit system designed to halt the rise in numbers of claimants, and the impact they have on those with a mental disorder in particular.

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