Mental Health in the Workplace 

Following the European Pact on Mental Health and Well-Being established in June 2008, the Commission’s Green Paper “Improving the mental health of the population - Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union” and the recognition of the role of mental health in personal and professional life, the European Parliament has adopted its own-initiative report on Mental Health. The objective of this initiative is to provide recommendations for the changes that need to be done in the mental health sector and to raise awareness for the promotion of mental health, the prevention of disorders and the support for people with mental health problems both at home and at the workplace.

Statistics

Mental health affects the daily lives of European citizens and is a contributory factor to well-being, employment, solidarity and social justice. Conversely, mental ill-health detracts from the quality of life of people and their families and entails expense which is a burden on the health sector and the social, economic, educational, insurance, penal and legal systems. Today 1 in 4 people experience some form of mental disorder at least once in their lives and neurodegenerative disorders are becoming ever more common. Furthermore, depression is affecting 1 in 6 women in Europe and it is estimated that by 2020, it will be the most common illness in the developed world and the second cause of disability. The financial cost is also significant: 3%-4% of the Member States’ GDP is spent outside the health sector because of systematic absence from work, incapacity for work and early retirement.

Content

The report contains a number of general recommendations to promote the mental health and wellbeing of the population, to combat stigma, discrimination and social exclusion, to strengthen preventive action and self-help and to provide support and adequate treatment for people with mental health problems, their families and careers. These recommendations cover the following priority areas: mental health in workplace settings, prevention of suicide and depression, mental health in youth and education and mental health of older people.

The European Parliament calls on Member States to create mechanisms for the improvement of knowledge on mental health and its relation to the healthy years of life, through the exchange and dissemination of information and to organize awareness and training campaigns to promote early diagnosis, immediate intervention and proper management of problems of such nature.

 Member States are also called to provide access of people with mental health problems to appropriate education, training and employment and to set up regional information networks between healthcare professionals, service users, their families, their educational establishments and places of work to reduce depression and suicidal behaviour.

Mental health in the Workplace

Studies have shown that working conditions play a significant role in the workers’ mental health. Negative management techniques, lack of communication, harassment, noise, workload and lack of safety at work can result in increased stress, contribute to the development of mental disorders and lead to early retirement or retirement on grounds of invalidity.

In order to promote mental health at the workplace and improve the EU's economic performance, the report calls on employers to implement practices which promote good mental health in order to offer 'better' jobs. Employers should create a healthy working climate, pay attention to work-related stress and implement work strategies that aim to the identification of mental disorders and their prevention.

The report also proposes measures for the integration of workers to the workplace through recruitment, rehabilitation and retention on equal terms. Member States are called to ensure that people who are entitled to sickness or disability benefits because of mental health problems are not deprived of their right of access to employment and that they will not lose the benefits related to their disability/sickness as soon as they find a new job. Furthermore, organisations which represent employment services should be strengthened in order to facilitate their participation in the formulation and implementation of policies related to mental health.

Awareness campaigns should be promoted through the media, the Internet, schools and places of work to increase knowledge about the most common symptoms of depression and suicidal tendencies, destigmatise mental disorders, lead to early seeking of assistance and the active integration of people experiencing mental health problems. Additionally, the report stresses that the Commission should offer the possibility of publishing and updating the measures which employers have implemented to safeguard the emotional and mental well-being of their employees.

Next steps

In line with the European Parliament’s own initiative, the Commission is planning to issue a proposal for a Council Recommendation on Mental Health and well being by the end of 2009. This proposal would aim to coordinate existing European effort in the field and, in particular, in areas like: basic research in the cause of mental health problems, studies for early diagnosis, improvement of comparability of data, identification of risk factors and measures for prevention.