More proactive strategies needed to improve employee mental health

Mental health disorders are straining individuals, employers, and society, leading to absenteeism and unemployment, a new study has found.
By: | October 16, 2023

Mental health disorders affect 15% of working-age adults, with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse being the most common.

Individuals with mental health disorders face heightened risks of sickness-related absences, unemployment, permanent withdrawal from the workforce, and diminished lifetime income, subsequently exacerbating their mental health issues. These mental disorders bear significant costs for employees, employers, and society.

These were findings from the Work-related causes of mental health conditions and interventions for their improvement in workplaces study by the University College Cork (UCC). The study, written by academics across Europe, Japan and Australia, emphasised that existing interventions primarily focus on the individual level and recommended the development of more proactive strategies to safeguard and promote employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

Some of the recommendations outlined in the study include the need for governments to integrate workplaces into their mental health strategies. Policymakers at various levels should establish regulations and oversight for working conditions, particularly in high-risk settings.

Furthermore, policymakers should prioritise the development of policies that promote a mentally healthy work environment, particularly in workplaces with low-wage or marginalised employees. Guidelines for creating and maintaining such environments, including training programmes, must be established, and governments should enhance support systems and workplace conditions to facilitate the inclusion of individuals with mental health issues in the workforce, reported EurekAlert!.

READ MORE: Why employees’ mental health should be a priority for all organisations

Professor Ella Arensman, Head of School of Public Health UCC and Chief Scientist of the National Suicide Research Foundation, and one of the study’s authors, concluded, “Several large organisations implemented Employee Assistance Programmes and Peer support systems to offer support for those with mental health problems. Organisations now need to take a second step and augment these programmes with proactive initiatives to improve work organisations and working conditions. This is not just a moral imperative but necessary for employers to meet legal and ethical mandates on psychologically safe work environments.”