A big problem and a major challenge. Complex, vast but utterly important. These are the words that the MentalHealthMatters project partners chose to describe the topic of mental health at work during the first transnational project workshop in Tallinn, Estonia, on 25 September 2023.
Since the beginning of the project in August, the partners in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Norway have been working with policymakers, employers, employees, researchers and other stakeholders to identify the national gaps in data and policy related to workplace psychosocial risks. During the transnational workshop in Tallinn, hosted by the Tallinn University of Technology, the partners had the first opportunity to share the early results from their national communities of practice. The motivation and incentives of the employers to invest time, effort, and resources into the mental health of their employees arose as a central challenge in all the countries.
“We tend to respond to issues only once they’ve escalated, and preventive measures are frequently overlooked,” says Ms. Karin Reinhold, Associate Professor on Management of Well-being at Work at the Tallinn University of Technology. “The employer should find the motivation to tackle mental health at work. But we cannot rely that every employer is acting proactively, taking the necessary preventive action. We cannot rely on their inner motivation.”
Alongside sharing the first results from the national communities of practice, the partners had a chance to start developing joint solutions for the first-aid kit for employers and managers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to prevent mental health issues among their workers, and a roadmap that proposes future actions for better response to current and emerging psychosocial risks in workplaces.
The group working on the first-aid kit for SMEs discussed how to effectively involve the employers and managers to get their valuable insight and to co-create the tool. The planned approach will be tested in Latvia by Riga Stradins University, after which the methodology is refined and adjusted for Finland, Estonia, and Norway.
During the session on the roadmap development, the partners identified and addressed joint challenges and gaps in the field of mental health at work. Among the three themes discussed were work environment and culture, changes in the world of work, and training of occupational health and safety professionals. One of the most significant challenges that we can observe across borders is the disparity between the supply and demand of psychosocial support for employees – both in the workplaces and at the doctor’s office.
How would the project partners describe the MentalHealthMatters project? Opportunity. Change. Collaboration. Resilience. Hope. And most importantly, enthusiasm. We move ahead with the implementation of the project with the spirit of these words.
MentalHealthMatters is co-funded by the European Union and receives financial support from Interreg Baltic Sea Region.
Read more on the project website.
Text: Saara Rissanen, the NDPHS Secretariat