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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).

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. (

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
     • your manager/supervisor or Human Resources
     • the Occupational Health Team (OHT) for employees 03 479 4903
     • or the University Mental Health Services for students 0800 479 821

Signs of declining mental health
Usually there is a change in our or someone’s typical 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 two different kinds of training for employees, please see below for details.

Good work is Good for you
Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace
a manager’s guide

Duration: 4 hrs

More information available here

Good work is Good for you
Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace
supporting people

Duration: 3 hrs

More information available here

Further information and links

Carinas table

For further information on this subject, please contact Carina Perner.