Well known Hunter-based ABC radio sports commentator and broadcaster Craig Hamilton is in the business of raising awareness of the importance of helping people and workplaces to improve mental health.
The mental health advocate has received some recognition for his work, with his website named as a leading resource by a US website.
Craig's website is one of only two Australian websites listed on the US based Masters in Counseling Top 101 sites for Bipolar Disorder and Depression. It is listed second under “blogs and other resources”. The Black Dog Institute is the other Australian site listed.
“For my website to be recognised internationally as a useful resource is very satisfying,” Craig said.
“These days the message is not just about my experience with mental illness, it's focussed on how to manage stress levels and the best way to achieve a healthy work/life balance.”
Craig's advocacy work has steadily increased over the past five years and now includes workplace presentations aimed at both employers and employees.
He continues to urge both employers and employees to take joint responsibility for tackling the rising multi-billion dollar impact of mental illness in the workplace. He argues that there needs to be an overhaul of attitudes by both employers and employees in relation to mental illness in the workplace.
“As we have done with safety (WHS), we need to start tackling mental illness at work as an opportunity to save business money rather than as a cost,” Craig said.
Figures provided by Chartered Securities Australia in 2012 show Australian businesses lose more than $6.5 billion each year by failing to provide early intervention/treatment for employees with mental health conditions.
A report by the Inspire Foundation and Ernst & Young in 2012 found that young men's mental illness in Australia is costing the economy more than $3 billion each year in lost productivity.
A 2012 report by the Hunter Institute of mental health showed that mental illness was costing the Australian mining industry $450 million annually. As well as direct costs such as medical expenses, workers compensation premiums, legal costs and sick leave there are indirect costs such as “presenteeism” where people are at work but not productive.
Craig said employers should have a strategic plan for workplace mental health that includes:
- more action to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness or “normalise” it by addressing and reporting on it in the same way other workplace health issues
- training for HR, WHS staff and management to better recognise and support staff with mental health issues to seek help and return to work
- action to reduce work pressure (which accounts for around 50 per cent of psychological injury claims)
- increased education for staff about mental illness and an open door policy to encourage staff to disclose mental health issues.
He said employees can be more supportive of colleagues with mental illness and those with mental health issues should report their illness and work with their employer to recover.
“Currently, if someone in a workplace says they have cancer they will generally be treated differently than if they say they have a mental illness and that needs to change fast,” he said.
“The fact is mental health issues are common. One in four Australians will experience a depressive episode in their lives.”
He said maintaining a good work/life balance with a good diet, proper sleep, stress management, relaxation techniques (yoga and meditation) and prescribed medication are all critical to gain and maintain mental health.
Craig was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2000 after an episode on his way to cover the Sydney Olympics. He is an ambassador for Beyondblue and has written two books on his experience with mental illness ‚Äì the first is titled Broken Open and the second A Better Life.