Why empowerment is key for mental health gains and recovery

Why empowerment is key for mental health gains and recovery

It’s no secret that healthcare workers are among those most vulnerable to mental health issues, but more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions and uncertainty has had a huge impact on employee wellbeing across different industry sectors.

Improving resilience has a big role to play in improving mental health outcomes. Resilia’s The Case for Resilience report shows that upon completion of a psychological resilience program, people with mental health issues reported a 75% improvement in depression, anxiety and stress scores, and a 40% improvement in wellbeing.

Safe Work Australia’s key work health and safety statistics show mental health-related worker compensation claims have been steadily rising in recent years. They accounted for 9% of all claims lodged between 2020 and 2021.

The pandemic made mental health impossible to ignore. It removed the stigma and started important conversations about how best to help people.

We must capitalise on this opportunity to empower teams, switching the focus to prevention and early intervention. This will help individuals achieve and sustain recovery while improving workplace mental health.

Building greater psychological resilience allows people to bounce back from adversity, even in the face of challenging circumstances.

Why resilience matters

Healthcare providers and hospitals have a responsibility to offer mental health education and support. And resilience-building is a crucial part of the wellbeing journey for high-risk occupation groups, such as healthcare workers.

It’s an issue we can’t afford to ignore, with Australia’s Productivity Commission estimating poor mental health costs the Australian national economy more than $200 billion a year. And the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing 45% of Australians have experienced a mental health issue.

A bespoke resilience-building program that assesses and addresses the specific organisational, interpersonal and individual challenges faced by the industry and organisation is a good place to start.

These interventions facilitate psychological growth and flexibility, and make it easier for people to overcome adversity.

Proven to make a difference

To help workers maintain positive mental health and sustain psychological recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, we gave participants access to a self-guided digital wellbeing program focused on behaviour modification and change.

The vast majority (87.5%) of participants in our resilience program increased their certified work capacity, 12.5% obtained volunteer work and 25% gained new employment.

Clients who engaged with Resilia around recovering at work in their same pre-injury workplace demonstrated a return-to-work rate of 82%.

Without the right support, return-to-work outcomes for employees who experience psychological injuries are poorer than for employees recovering from physical injuries without integrated, multi-layered and targeted support.

The benefits are clear. Workers with lower levels of resilience experience higher rates of workplace psychological injuries, while higher levels of personal resilience accelerates their return to work.

The benefits of early intervention

Early intervention improves the likelihood of a positive outcome by 40% and reduces the costs of compensation claims. Our work shows us that early intervention programs are also beneficial to:

  • recovery outcomes
  • capacity to remain at work
  • the length of time away from work
  • the likelihood of further absence
  • how participants view the workplace
  • no one-size-fits-all approach.


Tailored approaches that consider the needs of individuals can significantly improve the recovery journey and return-to-work outcomes for those experiencing psychological injuries. Organisations should work with their partners to develop practical and evidence-based solutions that are best suited to their circumstances.

The right healthcare partner makes it easier to attract new employees and retain existing staff. Our work shows that people can experience mental health issues or psychological injury and come out stronger than before.

Five ways to build resilient healthcare teams

  • Understand risks

    • Think about the psychosocial risks for healthcare teams and whether it’s possible to put measures and controls in place to improve the situation.

  • Supportive leadership

    • Train leaders in mental health literacy and awareness to make them more comfortable having wellbeing conversations.

  • Personal resilience

    • Commit to an ongoing learning program that teaches the skills of adaptive resilience in a way that works around busy schedules.

  • Psychological safety

    • Create a culture where staff feel safe to speak up when they need help or support.

  • Proactive checks

    • Identify at-risk groups and be proactive in providing them with extra support when they need it. This reduces the risk that a small problem becomes a big one.


*Rachel Clemons is Co-Founder & Director of Psychological Services, Centre for Corporate Health

Image credit: iStockphoto.com/Ivan-balvan

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