The MentalHealthMatters project uncovers the gaps and opportunities in education and training on psychosocial factors at work during a workshop in Helsinki - NDPHS

The MentalHealthMatters project uncovers the gaps and opportunities in education and training on psychosocial factors at work during a workshop in Helsinki

4 April, 2024

In March, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health welcomed the MentalHealthMatters transnational consortium and the NDPHS Expert Group on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) to Helsinki. The project partners and invited guests delved deeper into the education and training of the employers and OSH professionals on mental health related risks and resources at work. The purpose was to explore areas where reform would be needed to build a stronger know-how for action in the workplaces.


Further education and training can build necessary competencies and skills

The project partners presented the national competencies and skills of occupational physicians, safety personnel, labour inspectors and employers on addressing psychosocial factors in workplaces. Prior to the workshop, the partners had worked together with the representatives of the previously mentioned professional groups as well as universities, training centers and policymakers to identify concrete areas in need of improvement nationally.

The partners observed an alarming trend where the skills and knowledge on psychosocial factors that OSH professionals should have may not match with reality. Despite having a central role in identifying and minimising occupational risks, they often find venturing beyond traditional physical risks to psychosocial ones challenging. One of the reasons behind addressing, for example, mental health problems at work is a lack of know-how.

Drawing from a small survey conducted among OSH students and teachers in Finland, Ms. Elina Virtanen, Senior Specialist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, noted:

The OSH students report a lack of practical teaching methods and concrete examples on how to recognise and evaluate psychosocial risks at work, which indicates that their practical skills to tackle these risks may be limited.” 


Simultaneously, the partners noted that vocational training opportunities for employers on the factors influencing the mental health of the workforce are often underutilised. Much of the employers’ topical knowledge is based on variably trustworthy information retrieved from social media, podcasts, and other online resources.

The first half of the workshop in Helsinki concluded with a joint understanding that providing high-quality, practice-oriented education and continuous training for OSH professionals, labour inspectors, and employers play an important role in building the necessary skills to address psychosocial factors in workplaces.

On the journey towards the project outputs

The second half of the workshop was dedicated to advancing the development of the two project outputs, namely:

  • The online First-Aid Kit to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in addressing psychosocial risks and taking preventive action
  • The Roadmap detailing needed improvements and practical proposals for reform in OSH policy, regulations, education and practice both at the national and international levels.

The session on the First-Aid Kit focused on developing content and interface for the English version of the tool. The participants discussed the most frequently encountered challenges and psychosocial risks that they have nationally identified together with SME representatives, agreeing on the structure and main topics to be covered by the First-Aid Kit.

At the same time, the session dedicated to the Roadmap development discussed how to implement change in workplaces. To do this, an ecosystem for the governance of psychosocial factors was mapped, identifying the current main obstacles in the system and the areas where urgent reform is needed in the participating countries.

The day was concluded with optimism that change is possible coupled with a dash of realism that there are no quick solutions to systematically improve the mental health status of the workforce. In the words of one of the participants,

There is no silver bullet for this issue of mental health at work. If there was, we would have found it already.


For the change to happen, the MentalHealthMatters project partners stressed the need for social innovation, evaluation of the existing policies and promising practices, and close social dialogue both at the political and workplace levels.


MentalHealthMatters project proposes measures to address psychosocial risks in workplaces. The lead partner of the project is the Secretariat of the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being with partners from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway and Poland. The project is co-funded by the European Union and receives financial support from Interreg Baltic Sea Region.

Visit project website

Other News
Career opportunity: The NDPHS Secretariat is looking for a Senior Adviser to join our team
The NDPHS Secretariat provides strategic, administrative, and communication support to the Partnership, and implements activities and projects that support its mission. The Secretariat is the main contact point and institutional memory of the Partnership and is on the lookout for an experienced Senior Adviser.
18 April, 2024
A project Solutions for Age-friendly Employer (SAFE) receives funding from the Interreg Central Baltic
Across the NDPHS partner countries, more and more people are working later in life. Due to their chronological age, older workers however often face ageism in the form of prejudice, discrimination, or neglect. To advance the NDPHS and PA Health in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region work on promoting active and healthy ageing, we are glad to announce the launch of a project SAFE.
17 April, 2024
Harnessing Collective Strength to Advance Occupational Safety and Health in the Baltic Sea Region
The International Labour Organization (ILO) member States amendments to the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work to explicitly include "a safe and healthy working environment" is a pivotal moment in the effort to prioritize occupational safety and health on a broader scale. Amidst these developments and considering the profound changes in the world of work, what steps can be undertaken to elevate occupational safety and health standards within the NDPHS countries and give effect to the amended Declaration?
9 April, 2024
World TB Day 2024 – ‘Yes! We can end TB!’ The NDPHS Expert Group of HIV, TB & AI begins a project on Latent Tuberculosis Infection Inventory
Every year on March 24 we commemorate World TB Day to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis and to step up efforts to end the epidemic. In the Northern Dimension countries TB disease incidence has gone down thanks to successful control measures. However, a much larger number of people is latently infected, forming a reservoir for TB cases in the future. To better understand the situation, our Expert Group on HIV, TB & AI with Finnish Lung Health Association leading the project, will conduct a study on latent tuberculosis infection in the region.
22 March, 2024
The Northern Dimension Partnership of the Happiest States! Finland ranked the world’s happiest country with other Nordic countries following among the 10 most cheerful on Earth
The top 10 countries have remained much the same since before COVID. Our Partner country Finland is at the top for the 7th consecutive year, with Sweden closely following and Baltic countries being amongst those with one of the largest increase in happiness. The NDPHS thematic priorities - active and healthy ageing and wellbeing for all are listed among the reasons why people feel content and satisfied.
20 March, 2024
NDPHS congratulates Sweden for becoming a NATO member
On 7 March 2024 Sweden became Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) newest member. With Sweden’s accession, all NDPHS Partner countries have now joined the Allience which counts 32 countries among its members. The NDPHS Secretariat congratulates our colleagues and partners in Sweden and across the Partnership on this important event.
11 March, 2024
Enhancing Mental Health: Fostering Well-Being in the Baltic Sea Region
Can our mental well-being be positively affected by the power of art? We believe so. The idea of the Arts on Prescription project is that people with a diagnosed mental condition get a prescription for engaging in cultural activities which has been proven to have a positive effect on mental health. Read an interview with our project partner, Marta Ciesielska from Poland and step into the challenges public authorities face and the innovative solutions offered by this project.
13 February, 2024
All News >