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Businesses urged to use mental health guidelines

12 October 2022

THE INSTITUTION of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) calls on businesses to use new guidelines for managing mental health risks at work as part of a rounded approach to protecting workers.

The Guidelines on Mental Health at Work have been published by the World Health Organization (WHO) to support employers in tackling the growing burden of mental health problems on business and wider society.

At the same time, the WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) have released an accompanying policy brief which translates the recommendations in the guidelines into actions for national and workplace policy-makers.

IOSH, which peer reviewed the policy brief, says employers have a key role to play in tackling psychosocial risks and poor mental health in the workplace.

According to the WHO, it is estimated that 15 per cent of the world’s working age adults have a mental disorder. The global cost of mental health problems is estimated to be $1 trillion.

Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher, IOSH chief executive said, “We urge employers to use these guidelines as part of a rounded approach to mental health in the workplace.

“Employers play a key role in prevention, risk management, awareness and training, spotting the signs of mental ill health and providing intervention to support colleagues. But a 2019 IOSH report revealed four in five workers wouldn’t discuss their mental health with line managers because they feared being stigmatised or judged incapable.

“Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the burden of mental health disorders globally. This is why IOSH supports the World Health Organization’s new Guidelines on Mental Health at Work. We were also delighted to accept the invitation from the WHO, as part of an ongoing strategic collaboration, to peer review the WHO and International Labour Organization Policy Brief that accompanies the guidelines.”

The recommendations in the guidelines are split into seven intervention areas:

  • Organisational interventions, which tackle risks at work such as workload and work hours
  • Training managers/supervisors in mental health, to enable them to prevent mental health issues and support workers experiencing distress
  • Training workers in mental health awareness, including changing stigmatising attitudes to others
  • Individual interventions, such as physical activity and psychosocial interventions which build skills in stress management
  • Reasonable accommodations for workers with mental health problems, including adjustments to work
  • Supporting return to work for people who have been absent due to mental health problems
  • Supported employment, to facilitate gaining paid work for people with severe mental disorders

Vanessa added: “These guidelines will equip employers with information and tools to prevent and manage risks, protect and support working people, and support reducing the worldwide burden of mental ill health. They will also further contribute to removing the stigma that still exists around mental health problems.”

You can view the guidelines here and policy brief here.