By Katherine Ryan

Recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems affecting your workplace

20 Jul 2017

Mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia²; followed closely by heart disease and diabetes as the most common conditions managed by General Practitioners³.  Discussions about mental health can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug, especially in the workplace.

Mental health problems in the workplace have gone relatively unnoticed in the last decade. This is due to a number of reasons, including; the stigma that still surrounds the topic of mental health today. Sufferers stay quiet out of fear of being misunderstood, judged or treated differently by their peers and colleagues.

In a recent report by TNS, The State of Mental Health in Australian Workplaces, a mentally healthy workplace is just as important to the Australian employee as physically safe workplaces. The report indicates that at any given time, around one in five Australian employees experience a mental health problem and take time off work because they feel stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy.

The most common mental health conditions affecting Australian employees and their workplaces are anxiety and depression. Equipping yourself with the knowledge and the ability to identify the signs and symptoms of someone in need could make a significant difference in their life and your own.

What are the signs and symptoms to look for?

Everyone experiences anxiety and depression differently, so this information should be used as a guide only. Further, having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you or your colleague at work has anxiety or depression so it’s important to seek a Mental Health First Aider for advice. For an accurate diagnosis, seek a mental health care professional.


The symptoms of anxiety can be hard to pin down and it’s more than just feeling worried or stressed. While stress is a natural response to a situation where we feel under pressure, it’s usually transient and limited to the situation.

Anxiety is when these feelings don’t go away, they seem to linger without any particular reason or cause.

Some common, general symptoms include:

  • Avoiding certain situations, people or tasks
  • Obsessive thinking or worrying
  • Tightness in chest
  • Racing heart
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Compulsive behaviour


We all feel sad or low every now and then but some of us have these feelings for extended periods of time, even up to years, and sometimes for no apparent reason. Depression is more than just feeling moody and people with depression usually experience symptoms for more than two weeks across the following categories

  • Behaviour - not being able to complete tasks, having difficulty concentrating, not wanting to go out to socialise, withdrawing from friends and family and relying on substances to feel better.
  • Feelings - no longer finding enjoyment in the things you once loved, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, unhappy, indecisive, feeling guilty, overwhelmed, irritable, miserable and disappointed.
  • Thoughts - such as “I’m worthless, I’m a failure, it’s all my fault, everyone would be better off without me, no one will care if I’m gone and nothing ever good happens to me.”
  • Physical - loss or changes in appetite, significant weight gain or loss, constantly tired or lethargic, feeling unwell, sleeping issues, headaches, muscle weakness and aches.

Every workplace should promote good health amongst their employees, establish strategies to prevent mental illness and prepare their employees with the tools to support people with a mental health problem.

Join over half a million Australians helping to heal mental health in the workplace by becoming an accredited Mental Health First Aider.

Short Courses by CIT Solutions offers Mental Health First Aid (Standard) training that educates adults on how to provide initial support to individuals who may be displaying signs of a mental illness, experiencing a worsening of a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The course will develop the learner’s knowledge in identifying the signs and symptoms of individuals suffering a mental health issue.

Learners who complete the course and pass the assessment will become accredited by Mental Health First Aid Australia Guidelines.

Learn more about the Mental Health First Aid course from our website.

For more information about anxiety and depression, take a look at Beyondblue’s resources. If you or a colleague is experiencing signs or symptoms of either of the conditions discussed, you should contact a mental health care professional. The information is provided as a guide only to help build awareness and those experiencing a mental health problem in their workplace.




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