WHO and ILO call for better protection of mental health at work

© World Health Organization


Work and mental health are closely linked. While a safe and healthy work environment promotes mental health, an unhealthy workplace can lead to serious mental disorders. As this issue becomes increasingly prevalent, and the urgency for action becomes clear, the WHO and ILO are jointly issuing new recommendations and policy brief that will lay the foundation for change in occupational mental health worldwide. The WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, housed at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine since 1998, has long been involved in this issue and actively supports this process.

By 2022, 15% of working-age adults will be living with a mental disorder. While having a job can be a protective factor for mental health, and even promote recovery, professional environment can have a very negative impact. Stress, excessive pressure, inability to effectively separate work and private life, feelings of job insecurity and harassment are just some of the risks posed by unhealthy work environments. "As a mental health professional, I noticed in my clinical practice, over the past decade, an increase in treatment seeking for burnout, for anxiety, and for depressive disorders linked to overwork, as well as an increase in addictive disorders, including those mediated by Internet, as a means of coping with professional difficulties," stresses Dr Sophia Achab, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health and Associate Deputy Head  at the Addiction  Division of University Hospitals of Geneva.

Without appropriate support, health of affected individuals can rapidly deteriorate. Every year, 12 billion working days are lost due to depression and anxiety, costing $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. Around the world, workers, families, businesses and entire economies are impacted by mental health problems, whether or not they are work-related. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Office (ILO) released 28 September 2022 a report to tackle the pressing issue. The international organisations also highlight the duties of employers and the rights and responsibilities of workers, and identify strategies to prevent the psychosocial risks’ burden at work and to protect and promote mental health and well-being of workers.

Dr Achab welcomes this global initiative: "During my expert mandates and collaborative activities with WHO, and in my roles in Executive Committees of various European and global scientific societies, I am committed to better addressing the mental health of populations, vulnerable groups, and health professionals. There is no health without mental health.

29 Sept 2022