How Many of Your Staff Are Affected by Mental Illness?

declining mental health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently released the global estimates, together with country data, of the level of mental illness. Depression is the largest contributor with anxiety disorders ranked 6th. Globally in 2015, 300 million people suffer from depression and the same again with anxiety. Depression is the major contributor to suicide with 800,000 deaths each year.

What is Depression?

WHO defines depressive disorders as those that are characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. When depression is severe it can lead to suicide.

What is Anxiety?

WHO defines anxiety disorders as a group of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and
fear, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can range from mild to severe and typically for anxiety disorders the duration can be long term or chronic.

Global Estimates of Depression, Anxiety & Suicide

Globally, the total number of people living with depression is estimated at 322 million. The total number of people living with anxiety globally is estimated at 264 million. These are astounding numbers that shows that mental illness has increased by almost 18.4% (depression) and 15% (anxiety) in the last 10 years. Depression and anxiety are more common among females (4.6%) than males (2.6%). Depression rates peak in older adulthood (above 7.5% among females aged 55-74 years, and above 5.5% among males). The good news is the older you get, the lower the prevalence of anxiety, with 35-49 year old women most at risk. In America the highest rates of anxiety are recorded.  WHO estimates that 7.7% of the female population suffer from anxiety.

Suicide accounted for almost 1.5% of all deaths worldwide, bringing it into the top 20 leading causes of death in 2015. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally in 2015.

The suicide rate for males in the US is 17.7 per 100, 000 population and for females is 4.5 per 100, 000 population. In the US, neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 30.9% of the global burden of disease (WHO, 2008).

In Australia, the suicide rate for males is 16.7 per 100,000 population and for females is 4.4 per 100,000 population. Neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 29.4% of the global burden of disease (WHO, 2008).

For deaths registered in 2016 in the UK, persons aged 40 to 44 years had the highest age-specific suicide rate at 15.3 per 100,000. This age group also had the highest rate among males at 24.1 per 100,000, whilst females aged 50 to 54 years had the highest rate at 8.3 per 100,000.

What Can Business Do?

Governments around the world are stepping up to address the rising tide of mental illness. In 2016, the US passed the Mental Health Reform Legislation investing in prevention, early identification and intervention, and integrated health and behavioural health services that promote recovery and change the trajectories of lives for the better. This legislation has a focus on school-aged children and places suicide prevention at the forefront.

The UK Government (Stevenson/Farmer Review) is tackling mental health within the work context and has developed “mental health core standards” for businesses to adopt.

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan;
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees;
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling;
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development;
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors; and
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.

The Western Australian Government has recently developed a Mental Health Act 2014 and a Code of Practice for fly-in/fly-out workers.

“The code is designed for those who have functions or responsibilities to manage exposure, as far as practicable, to psychosocial hazards and factors at workplaces, including the implementation of appropriate controls; strategies and programs for intervention, recovery and promotion of wellbeing; and monitoring and review (e.g. statutory reporting)”.

Another resource that provides tips for workers to manage their mental health while at work is available here.

Web and Smart Device Technology

Mental health solutions delivered via smart devices and online are an efficient way for organisations to provide quicker and accessible support and training to their staff to tackle the onset of mental illness. Traditionally, providers deliver mental health training in workshops. Others deliver diagnostic surveys to gauge staff mental health state. The problem is regular engagement (which costly for organisations to train) and the accurate collection of data (people often only tell you what they think you want to hear).

One solution is Tap into Safety which unique in that it offers training delivered online and via smart devices, anywhere, anytime on relevant workplace topics that impact mental health using fun animation, gamification and interaction. As part of a well-being programme, the solution helps business to tackle mental illness better by providing relevant and interactive workplace training.

The Tap into Safety Integrated eLearning Platfom increases help-seeking by 100% as shown in the product evaluation conducted in 2017. By encouraging help-seeking early we reduce the escalation into serious stress claims.

Given the ever-increasing mental illness statistics, there has never been a better time to do things differently. Organisations around the world need employees who are mentally healthy and productive and business can help.


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