What steps can employers take to reduce the high costs and health impact of mental health issues? An expert Advisory Council has developed a set of recommendations for improving mental health and well-being in the workplace, according to a report in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The Advisory Council defines four "concrete and achievable next steps" toward "making a measurable difference in public mental health through workplace practices." Ron Z. Goetzel, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is lead author of the new report.

Building on a recent public health summit hosted by the Luv u Project, the report offers "a scientific and humanistic rationale for better addressing the often-neglected topic of mental health in the workplace." The authors build the scientific and business case for engaging employers promoting mental health at work. Mental illness leads not only to increased direct costs for healthcare, but also to indirect costs related to absenteeism, reduced productivity, safety incidents, and disability.

Summit participants emphasized the importance of building a "culture of health," including primary prevention to promote mental health as well as secondary prevention to support workers showing signs of mental health problems. The report includes two case studies of companies that have implemented balanced approaches to support individual and organizational health.

After the summit, the Advisory Council followed a year-long process to develop four major projects to improve mental health and well-being in the workplace:

  • "How-to" guide providing employers with advice/guidance on designing, implementing, & evaluating workplace mental health programs
  • "Scorecard" to aid in self-assessment of the worksite environment
  • Recognition program calling attention to companies with exemplary mental health practices
  • Executive training program focusing on mental health in the workplace.

"Since most of life is spent in working years, the workplace is an ideal setting for public health-informed initiatives that promote mental and behavioral health and prevent illness," Dr. Goetzel and coauthors write. "It is our expectation that the project initiative outlined here will result in measurable improvements in workers' mental health and well-being."

Citation — Goetzel RZ, Roemer EC, Holingue C, et al. Mental health in the workplace: a call to action proceedings from the Mental Health in the Workplace—Public Health Summit. J Occup Environ Med. 2018;60(4):322-30.

About ACOEM — ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments. About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — The Journal of Occupational and EnvironmentalMedicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.