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Mental health and wellbeing

Mental health is relevant at work because we spend so much of our time there; we bring our whole selves to work and sometimes we go through hard times and need extra support. We are, after all, only human.

Like physical health problems, mental health problems are very common. Nearly half the population will meet the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis at some stage during their lives, and 1 in 5 of us will experience depression in any given year.

In 2015, the New Zealand Sovereign Index found that:
     • 25% of New Zealanders reporting having a high level of mental wellbeing
     • 21% of us almost at that level - but that means a little over half of us are not experiencing the best mental wellbeing health we could.
The 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey reported:
     • An estimated 636,000 adults (17%) have been diagnosed with a mood disorder and/or anxiety disorder at some time in their lives (including depression, bipolar disorder and/or anxiety disorder).
     • 225,000 (6.2%) of adults reported experiencing mental distress in the previous four weeks (including anxiety, confused emotions, depression or rage).
(www.wellplace.nz)

The number of people whose ability to work is impaired by mental illness is difficult to determine. However, the number of people with mental illness who are chronically disabled and cannot work comprises just 3-5 per cent of the general population. (workwise.org.nz)

What is important to remember is that most people with experience of mental illness can work and want to work. Work is also important in helping people get well, and stay well. It gives us a routine and meaning to our days.

Sometimes though, work pressure and difficult personal circumstances can make managing mental health problems difficult. Speaking to someone confidentially can make all the difference and can help you address issues in the workplace:

Signs of declining mental health
Usually there are changes to someone’s behaviour:
     • decreased performance,
     • tiredness,
     • increased sick leave,
     • problems with colleagues,
     • a normally punctual employee might start turning up late,
     • Conversely, an employee may begin coming in much earlier and working later
     • increased use of alcohol, drugs or smoking
Other signs might be tearfulness, headaches, loss of humour and changes in emotional mood.

It is not always easy to notice changes in ourselves or someone else. Sometimes people may not realise they are becoming unwell. You are not expected to diagnose their or your condition but, the earlier you speak up or notice someone is experiencing mental health difficulties, the quicker we can take steps to help. Similar to physical health issues, the longer we leave a situation like this, the harder it is to solve the problem and the condition may get worse.

The Occupational Health Team, which is part of the Health and Safety compliance team, offers Mental Health and wellbeing training for all staff:

  • The importance of Psychological Safety at Work (2 hours)
  • A guide for managers, case management (3 hours)
  • Personal and Professional Boundaries (2 hours)
  • Supporting people (3 hours)
  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) (2 hours)

All courses are being delivered by zoom as well.

For more information and booking a place online, please visit https://www.otago.ac.nz/health-safety/training/otago546001.html

Further information and practical, safe online tools:

Workplace Mental Health and wellbeing links and tools:

For more information please contact Carina Perner carina.perner@otago.ac.nz or phone +64 21 920 696

National helplines:

  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
  • Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Healthline – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666