Open Access Research article

Development of guidelines to assist organisations to support employees returning to work after an episode of anxiety, depression or a related disorder: a Delphi consensus study with Australian professionals and consumers

Nicola J Reavley*, Anna Ross, Eoin J Killackey and Anthony F Jorm

Author Affiliations

Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Locked Bag 10, Parkville, Victoria, 3052, Australia

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:135  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-135

Published: 3 September 2012



Mental disorders are a significant cause of disability and loss of workplace productivity. The scientific evidence for how organisations should best support those returning to work after common mental disorders is relatively limited. Therefore a Delphi expert consensus study was carried out with professional and consumer experts.


A systematic review of websites, books and journal articles was conducted to develop a 387 item survey containing strategies that organisations might use to support those returning to work after common mental disorders. Three panels of Australian experts (66 health professionals, 30 employers and 80 consumers) were recruited and independently rated the items over three rounds, with strategies reaching consensus on importance written into the guidelines.


The participation rate across all three rounds was 60.2% (57.6% health professionals, 76.7% employers, 56.3% consumers). 308 strategies were endorsed as essential or important by at least 80% of all three panels. The endorsed strategies provided information on policy and procedures, the roles of supervisors, employees and colleagues in managing absence and return to work, and provision of mental health information and training.


The guidelines outline strategies for organisations supporting those returning to work after common mental disorders. It is hoped that they may be used to inform policy and practice in a variety of workplaces.