Promoting Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace

Psychological health is a person’s state of well-being that influences their emotions, thoughts and behaviour. It is an important factor in a person’s ability to deal with stress, establish and maintain relationships and make sound decisions. It also determines how productive they are at work, how they interact with others and how much enjoyment they get out of life (WHO, 1948).

Research shows that mental illnesses can be as debilitating as other medical problems. A deterioration in psychological health can lead to lost work productivity and financial security, a decreased quality of life, social isolation and even suicide. Fortunately, with proper treatment—often a combination of talk therapy and medication—it is possible to overcome many mental health issues and live a full, healthy and productive life.

Promoting psychological health involves tackling the root causes of mental illness, including structural, socioeconomic and individual determinants of mental health, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunities and education. These factors can contribute to a range of mental health conditions, such as poor work performance, substance use and high rates of depression and suicide. They can also have an impact on a workplace’s culture and climate and the health of its employees. It is therefore important for organizations to promote a positive culture and environment that supports psychological health and safety.

One way to do this is by implementing the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (CSA Z1003), a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources to help organizations promote psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. Another way is by encouraging employees to take responsibility for their psychological health and by making it clear that the company values their contribution to the organization’s success.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers are professionals who specialize in the assessment and diagnosis of mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and eating disorders. They can help people manage their symptoms, learn healthier ways to interact with others and cope with challenges in their lives. Psychiatrists use both counseling methods and medications to treat mental health conditions, while psychologists and social workers typically do not prescribe medication (Kleinman, 2008).

Health psychology is a discipline that uses scientific knowledge to understand how lifestyle choices can affect the development and maintenance of mental health. It is a growing field that has gained the attention of health economists, epidemiologists and social scientists, as well as clinicians. A shift from a focus on dysfunction and pathology to a view of psychological health as the foundation for well-being is occurring. This positive perspective is reflected in the World Health Organisation definition of health, which states that it is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (WHO, 1948).