Diagnosing and managing work‐related mental health conditions in general practice: new Australian clinical practice guidelines

Danielle Mazza, Samantha P Chakraborty, Bianca Brijnath, Heather Nowak, Cate Howell, Trevor Brott, Michelle Atchison, David Gras, Justin Kenardy, Richard Buchanan and Seyram Tawia
Med J Aust 2019; 211 (2): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50240
Published online: 15 July 2019


Introduction: In Australia, mental health conditions (MHCs) arising from workplace factors are a leading cause of long term work incapacity and absenteeism. While most patients are treated in general practice, general practitioners report several challenges associated with diagnosing and managing workplace MHCs.

This guideline, approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council and endorsed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, is the first internationally to address the clinical complexities associated with diagnosing and managing work‐related MHCs in general practice.

Main recommendations: Our 11 evidence‐based recommendations and 19 consensus‐based statements aim to assist GPs with:

  • the assessment of symptoms and diagnosis of a work‐related MHC;
  • the early identification of an MHC that develops as a comorbid or secondary condition after an initial workplace injury;
  • determining if an MHC has arisen as a result of work factors;
  • managing a work‐related MHC to improve personal recovery or return to work;
  • determining if a patient can work in some capacity;
  • communicating with the patient's workplace; and
  • managing a work‐related MHC that is not improving as anticipated.

Changes in management as result of the guideline: This guideline will enhance care and improve health outcomes by encouraging:

  • the use of appropriate tools to assist the diagnosis and determine the severity of MHCs;
  • consideration of factors that can lead to the development of an MHC after a workplace injury;
  • more comprehensive clinical assessments;
  • the use of existing high quality guidelines to inform the clinical management of MHCs;
  • consideration of a patient's capacity to work;
  • appropriate communication with the workplace; and
  • collaboration with other health professionals.
  • Danielle Mazza1
  • Samantha P Chakraborty1
  • Bianca Brijnath1,2
  • Heather Nowak3
  • Cate Howell4
  • Trevor Brott5
  • Michelle Atchison6
  • David Gras7
  • Justin Kenardy8,9
  • Richard Buchanan10
  • Seyram Tawia11

  • 1 Monash University, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 National Ageing Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 Mental Health Australia, Canberra, ACT
  • 4 Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Melbourne, VIC
  • 5 Western Industrial Screening and Accident Clinic, Melbourne, VIC
  • 6 Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Melbourne, VIC
  • 7 Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Melbourne, VIC
  • 8 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD
  • 9 Australian Psychological Society, Melbourne, VIC
  • 10 Office of Industrial Relations, Queensland Government, Brisbane, QLD
  • 11 Comcare, Melbourne, VIC


© 2019 The Authors. Medical Journal of Australia published on behalf of AMPCo Pty Ltd

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The development of this guideline was supported by the Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business and Comcare, the Office of Industrial Relations — Queensland Government, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (NSW), ReturntoWorkSA, WorkCover WA and the Institute of Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research. The development of the final recommendations has not been influenced by the views or interests of the funding bodies.

Competing interests:

The online Supporting Information includes the declaration of competing interests.


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