Fear can prevent mental health promotion in the workplace
According to Susanna Kosonen of MIELI Mental Health Finland, mental health must be addressed by the individual, work community and leadership alike. Practices and cultures that foster mental health are created through supportive leadership and organisational structures.
Promoting mental health before the onset of mental disorders and problems is worthwhile and efficient, and all sectors of work should be aware of this, states Susanna Kosonen, expert coordinator at MIELI Mental Health Finland.
Even though the world and attitudes are changing, mental health issues are still surrounded by a fear of stigma, and many are afraid to talk about their problems at work, Kosonen continues.
“In addition, supervisors and colleagues may be uncertain how they should interact with a person who has mental problems. Mental health is still often discussed from the perspective of illness, without acknowledging that psychological health is just like any other type of health. This means that mental health can be maintained, and that just like with physical health, we can learn mental health skills and knowledge throughout our lifetimes.”
Mental health should be tackled by the individual, community and leadership. According to Kosonen, all three levels should be aware of their potential to influence mental health.
“An example of a mental health skill for an individual could be to limit the workload or to focus on sufficient rest and recuperation during free time. At the workplace, a core mental health skill could be an open discussion about how emotions are expressed.”
”The best way to support the mental health of a specific workplace depends on the community, the field as well as the models and forms of work."
Kosonen emphasises that there is no single correct model for promoting mental health.
“The leadership and managers should be aware of the impacts of their policies and existing practices, and understand how they reflect on the mental wellbeing of the whole community. For example, how shifts or everyday arrangements could be handled so that every employee can take a lunch break and feel like they are seen and heard by the supervisor.”
This means that the promotion of mental health cannot be delegated to occupational health alone, Kosonen cautions.
“The treatment of illnesses and disorders is always expensive by every metric, and above all, a personal tragedy. For this reason, workplaces should be given more information and skills as well as tools on how daily work can be developed so that it supports mental health and wellbeing.”
According to Kosonen, leadership and managers often need information, skills and support to fully understand how to promote mental health, and what the results of such policies can be.
“By fostering leadership and organisational structures that support mental health, we enable a work culture and practices that promote mental health.