October 10 is celebrated as World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is Mental Health in the Workplace.
Unemployment is a well-recognized risk factor for mental health problems, while returning to, or getting work is protective.
Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.
Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.
Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. In India, mental illness is estimated to cost $1.03 trillion (22% of economic output) between 2012-2030. For the same period, China is estimated to lose $4.5 trillion to mental illness.
Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.
Work-related risk factors for mental health:
Most risks relate to interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work.
Risks to mental health include:
- inadequate health and safety policies;
- poor communication and management practices;
- limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
- low levels of support for employees;
- inflexible working hours; and
- unclear tasks or organizational objectives.
Risks may also be related to job content, such as unsuitable tasks for the person’s competencies or a high and unrelenting workload.
Risk may be increased in situations where there is a lack of team cohesion or social support.
Bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”) are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present risks to the health of workers. They are associated with both psychological and physical problems.
Creating a healthy workplace:
A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees.
Interventions and good practices that protect and promote mental health in the workplace include:
- implementation and enforcement of health and safety policies and practices, including identification of distress, harmful use of psychoactive substances and illness and providing resources to manage them;
- informing staff that support is available;
- involving employees in decision-making, conveying a feeling of control and participation; organizational practices that support a healthy work-life balance;
- programmes for career development of employees; and
- recognizing and rewarding the contribution of employees.
A recent WHO-led study estimated that for every USD $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of USD $4 in improved health and productivity.
Link to the World Mental Health Day 2017 page:
Link to WHO news release:
Link to WHO information sheet on mental health in the workplace:
Link to WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 (multiple languages):
Link to World Economic Forum Guide: ‘Seven Steps to a mentally healthy organization’ (English) [PDF]: