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7 in 10 reluctant to share mental health status with boss

By Emma Musgrave | |4 minute read

Almost seven in 10 Aussies are hiding their mental health status over fears of being subjected to unfair treatment by their employer, new data has shown.

To correspond with October’s Mental Health Month, WayAhead (Mental Health Association of NSW) gained insights from 2,000 respondents nationwide to unpack the prevalence of mental health stigma in the workplace.

According to the findings, 68 per cent of people would rather hide their mental health status from their employer than disclose any illness.


Sixty-four per cent of people surveyed who have lived experience of mental health hide it from others because of fear of discrimination, particularly in the workplace (which 60 per cent selected) and by family (which 53 per cent selected). Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said they have experienced unfair treatment in their workplace, while 53 per cent said stigma is most prevalent in the workplace.

“The WayAhead research demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do in reducing stigma and discrimination of mental health,” said executive director of the Australian Association of Psychologists, Tegan Carrison.

“Stigma and fear of discrimination lessen the likelihood that people will seek the help they need. We also need to improve availability and access to person-centred mental healthcare when people do reach out for help.”

Other findings from the survey showed that 32 per cent of people with lived experience of mental health felt they were unfairly treated by managers or colleagues in the workplace because of their mental illness. Meanwhile, 29 per cent felt general practitioners (GPs) treated them unfairly when seeking help for their issue.

Regarding wait times for a mental health issue, 18 per cent said it took them three years to get help, while 21 per cent said two to six months and 15 per cent said they were yet to seek any help.

Seventy-one per cent said public community education would help reduce stigma, while 56 per cent said increased government funding to the sector would also help.

“We need to continue educating Australians in our school, workplace, family and community settings,” WayAhead chief executive Sharon Grocott said.

“At WayAhead, we are working hard to reduce the pervasive stigma that still exists around mental health through support programs, education, resources and advocacy.”

The findings from WayAhead come after a survey from the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia (CMHAA) found that only half of Aussie employees feel as though their leadership team at work considers mental health as important as workplace performance. Additionally, only 56 per cent felt safe to speak about their mental health concerns at work, the survey found.

In light of the results of the survey, the CMHAA survey suggested that organisations should focus their attention on:

  1. How employees experience work
  2. Supporting open discussion of mental health
  3. Providing support networks
  4. Building leader capability at all levels
  5. Supporting leaders to make change
  6. Expanding the understanding of external stressors
  7. Delivering targeted support for high-risk groups
  8. Building a comprehensive data-driven picture