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When it comes to mental health in the workplace, we should endeavour to address it beyond stigmatism, and seek practical, helpful terms.



Mateship is important in Australia, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. While some people like to keep their issues and problems neatly tucked away, there’s something quite reassuring about having someone close to you (one of your mates) ask if you’re doing OK.

But it’s one thing to have a friend reach out. But what about when it comes to work?

Knowing how to talk to your boss when it comes to the mental health issues you may experience is important. Knowing you have both an environment where you can discuss any mental health issues, and the skills to approach your boss about it can make a big difference in your life.

Sometimes you may not be ‘matey’ with your colleagues or your boss, and that’s fairly normal.

Employers and employees can benefit from considering the services of firms such as SeventeenHundred; they, as an organisation, help facilitate the work/life balance by providing custom-tailored services to help organisations support their staff through whatever life throws at them.

By tackling any potential problems and conflicts in an upfront and open manner, you can potentially avoid having matters get to a place where they’ve gotten too bad or heavy for you to do anything about them. This is where SeventeenHundred comes in, with a philosophy that issues like depression, illness, injury or other traditional setbacks shouldn’t be seen as career-enders, just problems you may not have known there were solutions to.

According to Seventeenhundred’s Dr Roy Sugarman, there is no “right or wrong time”, nor any right or wrong reason to tell anyone at work you are struggling.

“There is no legal requirement beyond safety for you or the people you work with,” Dr Sugarman says, “If, however, it affects your work in non-threatening ways, you might need some support in keeping up with the workload or pressure to perform.”

Dr Sugarman, a clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist, says there are many pros and cons to consider when it comes to opening up about your mental health in the workforce.


According to Seventeenhundred’s Dr Roy Sugarman, there is no “right or wrong time”, nor any right or wrong reason to tell anyone at work you are struggling.


One advantage in discussing these matters at work is that you ‘may get some support or relief which keeps you working, rather than taking stress leave, and it’s better to be at work to get well, rather than taking time off,’ Dr Sugarman said.

On top of that, he says, ‘Sharing your situation encourages others to come forward and reduce the stigma, and reduce gossip.’

Dr Sugarman believes that being open about any potential mental distress can tamp down any speculation that you aren’t working to your full capacity. ‘If the boss knows what is going on for real, this reduces speculation that you are just lazy … or something else,’ he explains.

Any concerns you may have about confidentiality and privacy shouldn’t bother you too much, as Dr Sugarman assures us there are workplace laws which cover this.

“(Employers) cannot tell anyone without your consent: they can only use this information for the purpose for which you tell them, such as needing support or time off.”

Dr Sugarman does contend, however, that your workplace may not be the appropriate place to go for help, “Your mental health may have no impact on your workplace performance. You may not need support, so you don’t require transparency.” You can also seek help outside of the workplace, where you may feel more comfortable. “There may still be narrow-mindedness in your workplace, and you may face discrimination at work for no good reason long after you are well again. Sad, but true.”

Either way, the message is to speak up and encourage others to do the same. September 13 is R U OK Day, a national day of action devoted to reminding everyone in the community that any day is a good day to ask, ‘Are you OK?’ and support those struggling. Days like R U OK Day are aiming to end the still- prevalent attitudes in society- including the workplace- which potentially stigmatises sufferers of mental health issues and stops them from speaking up and seeking help.



R U OK as an organisation is about spreading the word of asking mates, colleagues and family members if they are OK, and that asking about how they’re doing is often the first crucial step in bringing about a solution to a person’s mental health struggles.

Further information can be found at

Visit to find out more about how they can help you at work.

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