Reshaping work environments to promote and protect mental health

Workplaces can be opportunities and opportunities for mental health. On the one hand, workplaces that promote good mental health and reduce work stress improve mental and physical health, reduce absenteeism, improve work performance and productivity, increase employee morale and motivation, and reduce stress and conflict among co-workers. So actions to protect and promote mental health in the workplace can be cost-effective.

On the other hand, unemployment, discrimination in access to work or employment, and poor working conditions can be a source of excessive stress, increasing the risk of developing new mental health conditions or increasing existing ones. Such a negative work environment and experience are the complete opposite of what employees need to do their job.

Toxic work environment

“I loved my job, but I hated it when I was working in a toxic environment,” says Larry White in Canada. “A long and unpleasant thing at work was moving me to panic attacks, anxiety and depression. My doctor said I had moderate or severe depression. I couldn’t work for days. [at a time]”.

Occupational mental health risks may be related to, among other things, the nature of the work performed, the physical, social, or cultural characteristics of the workplace, or career development opportunities. High job demands, low job control, job insecurity, low relationship and procedural justice, harassment, and poor social support in the workplace are all more likely to lead to the development of mental health problems.

“Organizational changes in my absence started to scare my weekly work meetings,” Larry explains. “I felt like a hamburger. My normal duties were being eroded and my mandate was reduced without any consultation, ”he says. “It made me sick to think about it. I felt a purpose. ”

Employers and governments have a responsibility to promote and protect the mental health of all working people. However, mental health promotion and prevention programs were among the least reported by countries (35%) in the 2020 mental health atlas. When Larry asked her professional association and human resources for help, no action was taken to help her. hura.

Overwhelmed, cornered, and unable to function, Larry resigned. “After my resignation, my personal feelings were chaotically aroused between mental anguish, lack of control, isolation, fear, sadness, fear, disbelief, frustration, despair, extreme anxiety, anger, and, occasionally, relief,” says Larry.

Loss of employment is a well-known risk factor for mental health problems and suicide attempts. But also bad working conditions. It can be a difficult choice. “The happiness, optimism and confidence they still have in others that still define me is still lacking in most of them,” Larry says. But he has no regrets. “I chose to put my mental health and mental health first. In the end, I learned a lot about myself and what is important to me. This opportunity for self-reflection is an unseen benefit. ”

Promoting and protecting mental health at work

Nationally and internationally, many labor laws and regulations can be used to establish an ideal environment for the protection of the mental health of workers. This includes regulations on occupational safety and health, violence and harassment, as well as laws and policies on minimum wage, equality, health, safety, parental leave and flexible working.

In 2022, the WHO will publish the first global guidelines on mental health and occupational health, which will examine how to ensure safe, supportive and decent working conditions that promote and protect mental health. The new guidelines identify three types of strategies.

  • Organizational interventions reshape working conditions, for example, by providing flexible work arrangements, promoting a healthy work-life balance, and reducing stigma in the workplace.
  • Mental health training for managers reinforces the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors of supervisors to better understand the mental health needs of employees.
  • Staff interventions increase people’s coping skills and may include strategies for promoting stress management training and leisure-based physical activity.

There’s still a lot to learn about what works, and for whom, when it comes to supporting mental health at work. But in all cases, promoting and protecting mental health at work remains a key strategy for transforming everyone’s mental health.

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