Within organizations, physical safety is often on the agenda in regard to workplace safety. But what about mental health?

Mental and stress related disorders such as depression, anxiety and burnout account for a large percentage of all work-related health problems. And due to the emotionally demanding work, along with fiscal restraints that often result in heavy workloads, occupational stress in healthcare is a very real concern.

In terms of workplace safety, more attention to mental health is needed because “some of the worst world disasters caused by humans have been the result of not being present enough to make an effective decision,” states The Online Recruitment Resource.

While absenteeism is more easily recognized. Presenteeism is a significant issue that is frequently overlooked. People experiencing mental health issues will often continue to work, which not only further impacts their health, but has potential to impact the quality of care delivered. And for organizations, presenteeism results in higher costs compared to absenteeism.

What is Mental Health Exactly?

mental-health-in-workplace-safety Mental Health in Healthcare Workplace Safety ­There are medical diagnosis for mental illnesses such as anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder, and depression.

And while these are considered mental health issues, mental health in this instance is more about a person’s sense of well-being, confidence and self-esteem in relation to work relationships, environment, abilities, support, and emotions in dealing with challenges and work stressors.

Mental health issues can often be difficult to identify because they can develop gradually. But essentially more awareness needs to be given to the way in which a person thinks, behaves and interacts, because these are the key areas where mental health problems arise.

According to research, problems often get surrounded by secrecy and silence so there can be a long lag from onset to treatment.

Organizational Performance Toward Mental Health

Research shows that while organizations place high importance on mental health, the truth is there is a large gap between importance and performance.

BeyondBlue-health-performance-chart Mental Health in Healthcare Workplace Safety ­

Featured Image Credit: State of Workplace Mental Health, Beyond Blue

As you can see from the image above, in healthcare, mental health is 95% importance but only 51% when it comes to performance.

Clearly, organizations could be doing much better to address mental health issues!

Implementing Mental Health Success Programs

While not easy to do, studies have shown implementing mental health incentives reduces issues and improves workers overall well-being.

For instance, one study in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, implemented a mental module for nurses and allied professionals in a healthcare facility. Participants in the intervention were involved in regular screening for work functioning impairments and mental health complaints. This gave workers an outlet to either discuss issues, get support, and/or seek more assistance if necessary. Overall, the results were very positive and reduced overall mental health issues.

Another review on mental health intervention in the workplace, published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, provides a great discussion on the many different areas that can be explored and implemented within organizations, including:

  • Mental health education
  • Physical health education
  • Relaxation and breaks
  • Activity modification
  • Physical environment modifications
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Identifying reasons and generating solutions for stress
  • Individual or group work on stress coping skill
  • Facilitation of access to clinical treatment           

Regardless of the actions chosen, dealing with mental health as an ongoing workplace safety issue is incredibly important, particularly in healthcare settings where patient care and decision making are engaged in every day.