Recommendations relating to Employment

Having something to do is vital for mental health. Participation in employment can meaningfully contribute to our sense of purpose, accomplishment and more.

‘Mentally healthy’ workplaces – those that are sensitive and equipped to respond to the needs of people with complex mental health issues – can offer a nurturing environment in which people can bring their ‘whole selves’ to work. It is these types of workplaces that are likely to support wellbeing and recovery for people living with complex mental health issues. 


“I found returning to work really hard after periods of acute illness. I've had to change jobs and downsize my career but with more legitimate support I could achieve more.”

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Victoria


Respondents to this domain reported unfair treatment in the workplace as a result of stigma associated with their complex mental health issues. Concerns also extended to unfair denial of flexible work arrangements, employment and promotion opportunities, and social exclusion. Others highlighted barriers to obtaining or sustaining employment, ranging from difficulties at the application and interview stages, or the process of engaging with employment support services. These difficulties continued throughout the lifecycle of employment for many, with discussion of unfair treatment, pressure to disclose or to conceal mental health status, and termination following disclosure being common themes.


“I got asked why I needed to take sick leave; I told them that I was unwell, the manager kept pushing me to talk, so I told him I had to see a psychiatrist, and the next day I was fired from my job as it was “unsafe to have an unstable employee working with the team.”

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Western Australia


Some people affected by complex mental health issues may require more support to enter or maintain employment – from carers, families and others supporting people impacted by these issues. Many employers need guidance to understand the support needs of people affected by complex mental health issues and how they can create a more inclusive work environment. These goals tie in neatly with the work currently underway to develop the National Workplace Initiative, led by the National Mental Health Commission.


Recommendations for action

  1. Ensure that the National Workplace Initiative and other approaches to improving mental health in the workplace are inclusive of complex mental health issues by promoting reasonable adjustments, flexibility, safe disclosure, unconscious bias training and mental health first aid. 
  2. Increase visibility, representation and valuing of lived experience perspectives in the workplace through inclusion in training, decision-making and establishment of peer support roles.
  3. Increase funding for programs that support people affected by complex mental health issues to identify their strengths and employment goals with the option to access support during their employment.