This briefing highlights the existing gaps in workplace mental health policy. It articulates the need to develop workplace mental health strategies to promote the mental health of all and ensure the early identification and treatment of mental health conditions across the EU and in Australia.
Mental health difficulties represent an important public health matter, affecting one in six people in Europe in 2016 (1), and the work environment has the potential to exacerbate poor mental health or positively contribute as a source of wellbeing (2). Mental health in the workplace has long been underestimated in most societies and by policymakers due to widespread stigma and preconceptions about mental illness (1). This neglect matters for two important reasons. First, mental ill-health in the workplace, particularly stress, burnout, depression, and anxiety, is common, affecting one in five European workers. Second, the social and economic costs of mental illness in the workplace are high for affected individuals, managers, and the EU economy (3.5-4% GDP) as a whole (1).
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the EU economy and represent more than 90% of all businesses in the EU and Australia (3). SMEs, therefore, have huge potential for influencing population health on a larger scale. SMEs generally do not have comparable employee welfare and mental health resources to those of larger organizations, which warrants the development of accessible online mental health promotion tools that are easy to deliver and implement. Since most of adult life is spent in the workplace, SMEs represent an ideal setting for health-informed initiatives that promote mental wellbeing and design healthy environments.
A negative working environment can lead to physical and mental illnesses, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, presenteeism, and lost productivity (4). Stigma and social exclusion of people with mental disorders are key factors in the under-recognition and low treatment rate of mental disorders in workplace settings (5).
“Mental Health Promotion and Intervention in Occupational Settings”, MENTUPP, is a four-year EU-funded project involving 17 partners and focusing on developing a multilevel intervention that can be successfully implemented by SMEs in the construction, healthcare, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors. The intervention addresses the following components:
The MENTUPP intervention:
The MENTUPP intervention is built on a solid foundation of evidence, which leverages extensive experience from partner European Alliance Against Depression’s, four-level community-based intervention to improve mental health and reduce suicide risk in Europe, and partner Mates in Construction (MIC)’s successful workplace intervention to reduce suicide amongst construction workers in Australia (7).
The MENTUPP intervention is currently being tested in a Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial (cRCT) in SMEs across eight countries in Europe and Australia, looking at mental health outcomes, cost-effectiveness and implementation factors to establish a robust evidence base.
Policy and Legislation
The MENTUPP consortium disseminated a survey to a panel of experts in the field of mental health in participating countries to assess challenges and barriers of mental health in the workplace, existing preconceptions and stigma, and the potential rate of success of the MENTUPP intervention. The results of the survey highlighted that the lack of commitment from managers and supervisors to promote mental health in the workplace, existing stigma, time-management issues, and the lack of policy addressing mental health interventions in the workplace are key barriers that could affect the success of MENTUPP (8). Also, key differences between the construction, health, and ICT sectors emerged.
Governments play an essential role in designing policy and regulatory frameworks that foster mentally healthy workplaces and facilitates the access to effective treatments for employees in need. Many improvements in the management of mental health issues in the workplace have resulted from the adoption of top-down approaches, where legislative changes have occurred followed by targeted policy initiatives (9). A mental health regulatory framework for the workplace is a fundamental component in creating a healthy work environment and improving employees’ mental health. Establishing this as a model for action for the future of work is key. Without a top-down approach, the lack of coordination and the possibility of fragmentation would reduce the impact of any mental health intervention in a future work environment.
Based on the key findings of the expert survey (8), the MENTUPP consortium recommends to:
MENTUPP project I Mental Health Promotion in Occupational Settings – Improving mental health in the workplace: www.mentuppproject.eu
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.