Workskil Australia Addresses Mental Health Forum

14 February 2019

Workskil Australia Addresses Mental Health Forum

Workskil Australia CEO Nicole Dwyer today presented at a packed CEDA forum on the mental health challenges facing the nation.

Joining a guest panel of industry leaders, Nicole outlined Workskil Australia’s on-the-ground experience and insights around mental health within the employment sector.

“Our nation’s unemployed have significantly higher proportions of mental illness than the general community,” Nicole told the 250-strong audience gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel in Adelaide.

“Mental health is an issue that has broad impacts on our economy and every aspect of our community, and I would argue is one of the most significant issues facing Australia now. It is an issue that touches every individual, family, school, employer and every tier of Government.”

Over the many years operating within employment, community, Indigenous, disability and youth services, Workskil Australia has built a strong belief that work is the best form of welfare.

“Unemployment contributes greatly to poor mental health. Social isolation, substance abuse, anxiety, depression and self-harming are all hugely prevalent in the communities we serve,” Nicole said.

“A pay packet is very important in that it reduces financial stress which is also a known primary contributor to our mental health. However, work is more than a pay packet for our community. It provides routine, purpose, meaning, social connection and status. It means you belong, you are valued by our community, you are needed.

“Here in Australia we have a worrying trend. While overall unemployment rates are quite good, youth unemployment is still too high, particularly in the regions, and underemployment is becoming the elephant in the room.”

Nicole was joined on the CEDA speaking panel by acclaimed youth mental health spokesperson Professor Patrick McGorry AO of the University of Melbourne, Gabrielle Kelly, Director of the SAHMRI Wellness & Resilience Centre, and Flinders University Psychology Professor Tracey Wade.

The audience heard that almost half of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime yet the current approach to mental health and wellbeing was not yielding the desired results, with a need to move beyond awareness raising to concrete action.

Nicole raised the concept of a more coordinated national approach to mental health.

“We have seen increasingly positive public awareness on mental health, we have brave ambassadors in our communities who share their personal stories, who encourage others to do the same,” she said.

“However we don’t have an agreed national framework of what we are seeking to achieve.

“Could or should every human service delivered across the country, whether education, child protection, employment, health, housing or justice, now have clear mental health outcomes inherent in every service design?

“Sharing of data and information, program design that includes multiple human service disciplines and ensuring funding is transparent, clear and measurable – this all needs to be part of our continued shared goal.

“It comes back to basics, the old Australian adage of giving everyone a fair go, and communities and families, caring and looking after each other. It’s about ensuring we value, and are seen to value, those in our community who do care, teach, mentor and support.”

Workskil Australia is a not-for-profit and charitable organisation providing employment, Indigenous, youth, community and disability services with a network of 69 sites in Victoria, South Australia, NSW and Western Australia.