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A national survey of professional workers across Australia has cast light on how employees in different industries feel their mental health needs are being addressed.

The survey of 1000 Australian workers, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Australian College of Applied Professions, found that half (49 per cent) of Australian workers feel their workplace has introduced mental health and wellbeing initiatives to “tick boxes” even though day-to-day, their manager shows little if any genuine concern or empathy for their wellbeing.

Law professionals, however, stood out as feeling more genuinely supported than professionals in other industries: a smaller proportion of 32 per cent of respondents working in the legal industry felt mental health and wellbeing initiatives were a “tick box” exercise.

Legal industry professionals also tended to feel more comfortable bringing their full selves to work.

While almost half (47 per cent) of all workers reported they wouldn’t feel comfortable enough to be open about personal interests, values, culture and/or lifestyle at work, just 40 per cent of legal professionals shared this belief.

However, when it came to being open about mental or physical health conditions, legal professionals were less likely to share.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of survey participants working in law said they would hide a mental or physical health condition from work to avoid being judged or discriminated against, compared to just over half (53 per cent) of all industries.

“In an age where we are repeatedly told ‘to be ourselves’ and that ‘it’s OK not to be OK’ at work, these latest findings suggest that many Australians still feel very guarded in the workplace,” said Australian College of Applied Professions CEO George Garrop.

A 2020 Federal Productivity Commission report found mental illness-related staff absenteeism and presenteeism costs Australian workplaces up to $17 billion per year.