Supporting Your Mental Health at Work

Mental health concerns affect approximately one in four people at some point in their life and have a significant impact on employee wellbeing. Mental health issues are a key concern of long-term absenteeism, and it is in the interests of both the employees and employers to promote good mental health and provide adequate support for those experiencing ill mental health.

Mental Health at Work

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The Prevalence of Mental Ill-Health in the Workplace

Mental health issues are prevalent across all working populations globally. In a recent review by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it was estimated that approximately 5% of those working in high-income countries had been affected by severe mental health problems period of these, a further 15% experienced moderate mental health problems.

The most common mental health problems cited included depression, generalized anxiety, phobias, as well as subclinical problems such as generalized distress.

How Mental Health of Employees is Affected by Work-Related Factors

There is growing evidence to suggest that mental health problems can develop in the workplace and therefore is the responsibility of the employer. Poor psychosocial working conditions come out which are affected as job stressors can increase the risk of developing disorders including depression, distress, anxiety, and burnout. These stresses can be subdivided into individual or organizational.

Literature supports that early identification and modification of risk factors is the most effective way to ease mental health struggles in employees. This early identification is referred to as primary prevention and is most effective when it coincides with secondary and tertiary prevention.

Primary prevention works by modifying or eliminating any risk factors. Secondary prevention is worker-oriented and provides employees who are identified as at risk of developing mental health with the skills to cope. Tertiary prevention is the treatment of employees who already suffer from mental health conditions and can include supporting the return to work, or rehabilitation.

Evidence supports primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, demonstrating that collectively, each results in a positive effect on the mental health outcomes of employees; through both aiding recoveries from mental illness as well as enhancing mental well-being.

An International Review of Workplace Mental Health

A systematic review conducted this year determined the quality and comprehensiveness of guidelines to detect, prevent, and manage mental health issues at work. The guidelines included those published in English; a total of 20 guidelines were reviewed.

The results of this study indicated low scoring guidelines with those that focused on the detection on treatment, rather than the prevention of mental health problems at work. Moreover, comment the study criticized the comprehensiveness of prevention strategies combat citing individual focus and an absence of practical tools or advice.

The Role of Employers in Employees Mental Health

Employers can remove job-related stressors in the workplace. Some potential causes of work-related stress are overworking, poor instructions, difficult deadlines, absence of decision-making, job insecurity, isolated working conditions, poor childcare arrangement, and surveillance.

Sexual harassment is also considered to be a major stressor, particularly for women in the workplace. Discrimination is a strong predictor of health outcomes which include mental ill health, and disproportionately affects ethnic minorities relative to traditional stressors.

The Issues Still Facing Employers

Although knowledge of mental health has increased over several decades, employers still lack acceptance and understanding of mental health problems. Training programs are not adequate.

To improve mental health in the workplace, it is necessary to implement effective anti-discrimination provisions. Even though there has been a significant increase in anti-discrimination legislation across the world, particularly for those with disabilities and other marginalized identities, there are weak enforcement mechanisms that come up with an increased need for employees to understand how these laws affect employment policies.

Moreover, it is necessary to develop appropriate prevention and mental health promotion policies in the workplace, with an emphasis on the role of early intervention for preventative measures as well as effective treatment which includes reintegration of employees into the work environment.

Ultimately, the promotion of practices that support positive mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly important to employees. Despite this, further research is needed to determine the extent to which co-workers can play a role in the long-term integration of individuals with mental Illinois health issues back into the workplace, as well as determining training interventions that may work best.

Workplace Mental Health - all you need to know (for now) | Tom Oxley | TEDxNorwichED


  • Memish K, Martin A, Bartlett L, et al. (2017) Workplace mental health: An international review of guidelines. Prev Med. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.03.017.
  • Rajgopal T. Mental well-being at the workplace. (2010) Indian J Occup Environ Med.  doi:10.4103/0019-5278.75691.
  • Bhui K, Dinos S, Galant-Miecznikowska M, et al. (2016) Perceptions of work stress causes and effective interventions in employees working in public, private and non-governmental organisations: a qualitative study. BJPsych Bull. doi:10.1192/pb.bp.115.050823.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Hidaya Aliouche

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Hidaya Aliouche

Hidaya is a science communications enthusiast who has recently graduated and is embarking on a career in the science and medical copywriting. She has a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from The University of Manchester. She is passionate about writing and is particularly interested in microbiology, immunology, and biochemistry.


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