The national mental health commissioner, Prof Ian Hickie, has said workplaces rely too much on “1970s-style” HR programs to help staff in distress rather than implementing comprehensive mental health policies.

His comments come in response to a survey of Australian workplaces conducted by the law firm MinterEllison found almost three-quarters had no formal policy or procedure for managing staff mental health issues.

The study found 44% of participants reported suicide or attempted suicide among staff at their workplaces in the last two years.