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Allianz, AIA join alliance to drive change in workplace mental health

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Allianz and life insurer AIA have joined forces with some of Australia’s biggest employers to tackle mental health issues in the workplace and get beyond a token “yoga and fruit bowl” approach to drive real change.

Fifteen businesses have formed the Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia, which is dedicated to improving mental health for all Australian workers.

National Mental Health Commission Chair Lucy Brogden says the alliance is “effectively an extensive network of mental health champions across the Australian business community who are each saying in unison, ‘This is really important to us; we are committed to this; we are here to be a part of the change’.”

The two insurance heavyweights join Woolworths, Coles, Johnson & Johnson, Clayton Utz, King & Wood Mallesons, MinterEllison, DLA Piper,  Bunnings, Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, KPMG, Microsoft and PwC as founding members.

Allianz Australia Chief GM Corporate, Governance & Conduct Helen Silver says it is critical to intervene early before wellbeing issues become entrenched.

“If we are to get people to seek help early we need to reduce the stigma associated with asking for that help,” she said. “If leaders open up about mental health, it quickly becomes a part of our everyday and overall health conversations.”

One in five working Australians reported experiencing a mental illness in the past year and the cost to the Australian economy of mental illness and suicide is about $43-$51 billion each year.

There is a cost of around $130 billion associated with diminished health and reduced life expectancy for those living with mental ill-health, the alliance says.

The workplace can promote opportunities for social inclusion and support.

According to Safe Work Australia, most claims can be attributed to work-related mental stress including work pressure, harassment or bullying, exposure to workplace violence and sexual or racial harassment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated mental health issues, with increased anxiety and uncertainty, self-isolation, family stress and financial hardship.