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Mentally healthy workplaces not just a legal req't

MEDIA RELEASE

For immediate release 5th July 2005

Why mentally healthy workplaces should be more than just a legal requirement

One of the main reasons businesses are taking the issue of stress in the workplace seriously is because employers that are negligent are now liable under health and safety legislation. However a one-day forum being held in Auckland and Christchurch aims to unveil why a mentally healthy workplace is not only a legal requirement, but increasingly makes good business sense.

Headlining the conference, hosted by Working Well, the workplace and mental health division of the Mental Health Foundation, is renowned Australian workplace psychologist and ergonomist, David Brown.

Brown, of Pocket Ergonomist fame, cites the cost of stress as a major reason to take it seriously. Lost productivity, absenteeism and sick leave, high staff turnover and even heart disease can all be attributed to stress according to Brown.

He says large studies in the UK and Europe have shown that people in psychologically poor jobs have about four times the risk of premature death compared to people in better jobs. From those and other studies, the best international estimates are that stress causes between 8% and 18% of heart disease. These are generally thought to be conservative estimates - some authorities suggest that 50% is closer to the mark.

Brown says other costs, such as lost productivity, all contributed to a report that put the cost of stress in Australia at $13 billion per year in 2000. Stress is also likely to be implicated in absenteeism, headaches, minor and major diseases, and depression.

While New Zealand research is difficult to come across, a study published in 1995 found that office workers in New Zealand were among the most stressed in the world.

Brown is joined by a line up of speakers looking at factors that influence the New Zealand workplace, including the OSH legislation, indigeneity and health and safety, and increasingly diverse workplaces.

Leanne Luxford, Working Well Manager, and who developed the conference programme, says: "The forums in both Auckland and Christchurch present a range of perspectives on how to create and develop mentally healthy workplaces. We believe that the programme mix will provide more key learning opportunities than just focusing on one aspect of creating mentally healthy workplaces. Participants will be able to take away tangible ideas and strategies to implement initiatives within their own organisations."

The forums are being held in Christchurch on the 20th July, and in Auckland on the 21st July. For more information about the forums, or to register, please contact Leanne Luxford at the Mental Health Foundation on 0800 496 754, email workingwell@mentalhealth.org.nz, or visit Working Well's website www.workingwell.co.nz.

-ENDS-

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