A leading figure in mental health issues in the workplace has revealed some alarming numbers about the levels of depression in Australia’s finance sector.
According to Pedro Diaz, a world-leading authority on workplace mental health and founder of the Workplace Mental Health Institute, 50 per cent of people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life.
“This is a big number and it means that many of us are struggling to deal with things that are happening in our life,” Mr Diaz said.
“The major part of our work is going into organisations and teaching management how to communicate effectively so the mental health of the workforce is improved, protected and immunised.”
Some industries have higher levels of mental illness than others. Mr Diaz told The Adviser that the financial services sector has one of the highest rates of depression in Australia.
“About 33 per cent of people in the finance industry have been identified as potentially having depression. That’s huge compared to the national average of 6.4 per cent,” the authority said.
“We need the finance industry, but there are certain parts of it that are questionable in terms of the psychological reward for workers.”
Mr Diaz explained that while many people working in the finance industry are well paid, they don’t often see the results of their work.
“If you were a farmer and growing wheat, you can watch it grow and be processed into flour and then see the flour be made into bread. There is a tangible series of events that can give you satisfaction.
“When you are dealing with finance, it can be hard, because what are you creating? We need to know that what we do matters.”
Broker launches mental health program
After suffering an anxiety attack earlier this year, award-winning mortgage broker Tracy Kearey decided to launch a mental health program to support her staff.
The Brisbane-based director of Home Loan Connexion said that she wanted to make sure that anyone suffering from stress, anxiety or mental health issues had an appropriate outlet and support system.
“We all have stresses,” she said. “I have had some stress recently and ended up with what I thought was a heart attack, but it turned out to be anxiety. It just made me stop and realise that it was very important that people know that they have somebody to talk to.
“You don’t always want to talk to a colleague or your boss, so we’re bringing in a mental health program that partners with different people who will offer some more services to our broker group.
“In my experience, if there is somebody available to speak to, it can just change your day and make it that little bit more manageable.”
Sam Makhoul, managing director at MSA National and a workplace wellness advocate, said that writing in a diary, deep breathing, exercise and meditation are rituals that brokers can undertake to achieve a “motivational” life that is filled with “exciting achievements and exciting people”.