Mental health alertness urged

Heads-up: Kham Sirimanotham, from Green Valley, now knows how to keep his mental health in check. Picture: Simon Bennett

Heads-up: Kham Sirimanotham, from Green Valley, now knows how to keep his mental health in check. Picture: Simon Bennett

A RECENT survey has revealed 91 per cent of Australian workers rate their mental welfare to be important in the workplace, says advocacy group beyondblue.

But barely more than half — 52 per cent — said their workplace was mentally healthy.

The findings showed these workers were three times more likely to take sick days due to mental health problems compared to other workers.

Beyondblue spokesman Kham Sirimanotham, of Green Valley, is encouraging local business owners to get involved with a new campaign to give workplace mental health the same priority as physical health and safety.

"The Heads Up campaign is funded by the Department of Health and it targets leaders across small, medium and large Australian business," he said.

"Mental health is important in the workplace because a lack of understanding leads to alienation and the isolation of staff members.

"If staff members who are going through mental health issues are supported, their absence from work is very minimal and recovery is a lot faster.

"Education and awareness in the workplace about mental illness is the key."

Mr Sirimanotham said he was lucky his workplace was supportive and understood the importance of mental health.

"While my wife was trying to deal with pre-natal depression I had to support her as well as caring for our newborn daughter," he said.

"I was supporting everyone mentally as well as financially but I neglected my own mental health.

"I ignored the signs of depression and anxiety because I had no understanding of the symptoms and it got to the point I was sent to a mental health hospital."

Mr Sirimanotham said the most important aspect to remember when caring for someone who had a mental illness was to not neglect your own mental welfare.

"If you're ever in this situation you should tell everyone else: 'Stop — it's my turn to get help so I can care for you all.'

"I decided to be a spokesperson because I want to share my life experiences with other men and families who are going through a similar situation and show them there's light at the end of the tunnel."

Details: headsup.org.au.

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