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CCIWA Mental Health Kit: Part 1- An introduction

By CCIWA Editor 

How to use this kit 

As a manager or human resources professional, it is highly likely you will manage an employee with a mental health issue at some point in your career.

CCIWA’s kit for managing mental health in the workplace provides managers and HR professionals with the practical resources and information required to appropriately manage employees and prospective employees with mental health issues, from a combined occupational health and safety, employment relations and workers’ compensation perspective.

The Managing Mental Health in the Workplace Kit (The Kit) is a practical guide to situations including:

  • what to do in an emergency;
  • having an “R U OK?” conversation;
  • requesting information from a medical practitioner;
  • performance managing an employee with suspected mental health issues;
  • reasonable adjustments;
  • managing absences; and
  • COVID-19 and mental health.

The Kit introduces key aspects of relevant legislation, including; Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), Workers’ Compensation, Fair Work and Discrimination legislation.

The Kit will address common queries human resources and safety staff are likely to address on a regular basis.

It also includes pro-forma policies, plans, letters and other supplementary documents commonly needed when managing mental health issues in the workplace.

Glossary of commonly used terms

The following explanations are intended to assist practitioners in understanding these commonly used terms. Please note different publications or literature may give different meaning to the same words.

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A mental illness is diagnosed by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, general practitioner or psychologist. A person with a diagnosed mental illness may be receiving treatment by a mental health professional, with specific therapy and/or medication.
Mental Health
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.
Mental health issues
Preferred term to problems.

Captures a state where an individual is experiencing difficulties (may be cognitive, emotional, productivity, social) and there is an observed change in behaviour.

Mental illness/health condition/disorder/disease/ill-health
At times, it may be appropriate to use the term ‘mental illness’ as it is the accepted medico-legal term, this is particularly the case when there is a diagnosed condition.
Psychosocial hazards
These are conditions or events that can potentially lead to (mental) stress. The WHO publications and the British Standards Institute identify 10 primary psychosocial hazards:

  • job content;
  • workload and workplace;
  • work schedule;
  • control;
  • Environment and equipment;
  • organisational culture and function;
  • interpersonal relationships at work;
  • role in organisation;
  • career development; and
  • home-work interface.

The term hazards is considered to be interchangeable with the term stressors in the workplace context and refers to those conditions that could expose an employee to harm to their health.

Hazards in the workplace can be categorised as either physical (e.g. noise, hazardous chemicals) or psychosocial in nature (e.g. time pressure, bullying).

Psychosocial risk
Preferred term to psychological risk. When an exposure to psychosocial hazards risks leading to the experience of (mental) stress.
Is what a person experiences when they are under significant psychological (mental) or physical pressure – real or perceived, acute or chronic.
A person with a diagnosed mental illness is being treated if they are receiving some type of treatment such as specific therapy and/or medication by a doctor.
Work-related mental stress
According to the WHO, work-related stress is “the response people may experience when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.”

For advice and guidance on work, health and safety matters contact CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email

As a manager or human resources professional, it is highly likely you will manage an employee with a mental health issue at some point in your career.

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