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Good mental health can start at work

9 October 2001 Media Statement

Good mental health can start at work

Health Minister Annette King today reminded employers of the importance of providing mentally healthy workplaces, and urged them to review potential triggers for stress in the workplace.

Today, and throughout the week, New Zealand is joining with 112 countries worldwide to recognise Mental Health Awareness Week.

"In the global workplace, stress is taking its toll in both human and financial terms, accounting for absenteeism, low productivity, and high staff turnover," Mrs King said at the start of a hikoi to mark the week in Wellington.

"Every individual, every family and every community has a right to emotional and mental well-being. In a mentally healthy community, people establish and maintain good relationships and find meaningful existence. These are intrinsically related to a community's ability to change and grow.

"From an employers' perspective, it is in their interests to have a happy and healthy workplace and this week is an opportune time for both employers and staff to review potential triggers for stress. These include long work hours, poorly managed workloads, poor physical health, lack of guidelines on harassment, or a lack of consultation or appraisal."

Mrs King said it was now known that one in five New Zealanders experienced mental illness at some time in their life. Employers needed to remember that mental illness would impact on their business in some way, either through employees, their own families, customers, clients or suppliers.

Looking beyond a person's mental illness made good business sense, she said. "It enables you to employ the best person for the job and develop flexible employment policies for everyone. And a happy and healthy workplace means improved service, and satisfied customers.

"If you get it right for people with mental illness, you get it right for everybody. Implementing good employment practises that don't discriminate, inviting staff to work on a strategy to maintain good mental health and productivity levels, and ensuring staff have the time to stroll off stress makes a good combination for World Mental Health Day."

ENDS

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