One in six Australian workers will experience a mental health issue (Black Dog 2018).

We now know that staying at work or coming back to work can really help with recovery (UNSW and Black Dog Institute 2014).

When we talk about mental health recovery, people often talk about recovery as a journey where a person feels in control of their life.

Small changes make a big difference

While everyone's circumstances are different, recovery at work is about looking for small changes (sometimes called workplace adjustments) that can make a big difference.

Workplace adjustments might include:

  • More one on one meetings and support
  • A more flexible work schedule
  • Access to leave
  • The option to work from home

*Sourced from Head ups: Help other stay at work

What help is available?

Australians are working hard to raise awareness about mental health, so there is a lot of information and support available.

We are starting some projects in 2019 with a focus on making it easier for individuals and organisations in NSW to navigate the recovery at work process.

Its best to start by having a chat, and making a simple plan

Based on the existing tools and research, the best way to get started on recovery at work is to:

  • talk with a trusted person to seek support
  • plan work adjustments to stay at work, or come back to work while recovering.

Here is an example of what this might look like:

Mental health issue
Talk with a trusted person
Plan your work adjustments
Keep talking, keep planning
Make adjustments

Why focus on recovery at work?

  • People who are dealing with mental health issues are often still able to make positive contributions in the workplace.
  • Recovery at work is good for individuals, families, communities and business.
  • There are clear financial incentives to support recovery at work. The Canadian Mental Health Commission found the return on investment to be between 2 and 7 times for organisations, and 4 and 12 times for individuals.

Tips for talking about the recovery process

Words and language are very important when talking about personal mental health. Using language that is respectful, engaging and inclusive helps to show support and encourages discussions that promote personal recovery.

Guides like Australia’s Mental Health Coordinating Council's recovery oriented language guide can support positive and productive conversations about recovering at work.

Our actions

We have been seeking feedback about what is needed to help people recover at work, and we have heard that it’s hard to know where to start, and often feels overwhelming because there is so much information available.

To help, SIRA asked Monash University to help bring together a list of tools that can help, and to rate them on how easy they are to use.

Monash found the tools generally recommended:

  • developing a mental health policy for the workplace
  • support and resources for individuals
  • working to reduce stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace
  • working to recognise the early warning signs of mental distress
  • addressing the causes of any mental distress (where possible)
  • working collaboratively with the individual, employer, healthcare provider and case manager (where applicable) to support recovery at work or return to work.

You can read about the findings in SIRA's summary of the rapid review or the full Monash University's rapid review.

To address these findings, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) is developing the recovery @ work program as part of the mentally healthy workplaces strategy, its primary aims are to work with individuals, organisations, communities and other government agencies to support:

  • the promotion and facilitation of earlier help seeking to reduce mental distress
  • the development of confidence and capability of people in NSW organisations to support recovery following a mental health issue
  • increased awareness of mental health as a something we all have and to reduce stigma.


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Our stories

Watch stories about the mental health recovery @ work programs and hear leaders talk about workplace culture and how it impacts on mental health at work.

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