The bosses of Australian companies generally ignore the mental health of their staff, with 70 per cent of workers saying their employers do not offer programs to support mental wellbeing, a survey by Superfriend finds.

The survey polled 1,000 Australians to gauge attitudes to workers’ physical and mental wellbeing. Its findings were released at the launch of Superfriend, an initiative of the Industry Funds Forum, during mental health awareness week in October. According to the survey, approximately 50 per cent of Australians admit to often feeling stressed, and 25 per cent regularly feel depressed.

But despite this, more than two-thirds of Australians have never sought help or guidance on mental health matters. John Mendoza, chair of Superfriend’s Mental Health Reference Group and chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia, says there is increasing evidence of a link between stress in the workplace and mental illness, and that employers needed to better recognise the importance of the mental health and wellbeing among staff. “The cost of workplace stress to Australian business is potentially crippling.

I would call on all Australian employers to learn more about what they can do to support their staff and encourage them to seek help when they need it,” Mendoza says. The Superfriend website provides materials targeting early prevention and response to mental illness, and on improving mental health among employers and staff, such as achieving a work-life balance and recognising the early signs of mental illness.

The program’s ultimate goal is to reduce the incidence of suicide and the impact of mental illness on individuals, workplaces, friends and families. The survey also finds that Australians between 40 and 49 years of age are the most unhappy and unhealthy and are less likely to take action to improve their physical and mental state. It finds that 80 per cent of Australians believe that watching television improves their mental health, and that relaxing with a few drinks is also regarded as beneficial.

The website, au, was developed in partnership with industry super funds, eight group life insurers and mental health organisations Beyond Blue, the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, Lifeline, the Mental Health Council of Australia, SANE, the Schizophrenia Research Institute, Suicide Prevention Australia and Wesley Mission. Damian Hill, the chief executive of REST Superannuation, is the chairman of Superfriend.

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