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Press release of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Finnish Institute of Occupational
Mental Health at Work Programme: permanent changes are needed in workplace attitudes and activities

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 1.6.2022 10.06
Press release 139/2022
Better sooner rather than later

Proactive work to support mental health at workplaces plays an increasingly important role in promoting employment growth. What is essential is to make daily working life run smoothly and to take mental wellbeing into account in strategic decisions. Workplaces need to take action before work resources run out and employees become overburdened. The Mental Health at Work Programme provides workplaces with information, example cases, digital tools and a model for occupational healthcare cooperation.

Finnish workplaces need skilled employees with sufficient capacity and ability to work. The Programme’s experts stress that workplaces themselves have numerous opportunities to influence the direction of development. 

“What we need is a wider change in activities and attitudes to reduce the number of sick leaves and to prevent work careers from ending prematurely due to mental health issues,” says Jaana Vastamäki, Senior Specialist at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. 

“It is not expensive to develop working methods that support mental wellbeing. It is worth investing in this, at least supervisors and managers’ time if nothing else,” continues Vastamäki.   

Good mental health is a key asset in future working life, emphasising lifelong learning and the requirements of brainwork. 

Change will happen at workplaces 

Workplaces at the leading edge have understood that it is better to support mental health sooner rather than later. Changes have been made in strategies and daily work.

Visma Real Estate, which is a provider of property management software, has invested in the culture of dialogue, first-line management and employees’ opportunities to influence their work. This way it is possible to prevent work and work-related problems from piling up. 

The municipality of Kempele has developed an operating model which is based on the modification of work and the idea that work itself may serve as a rehabilitative element. Working days can be shortened and tailored in a way that there is no need for sick leave. 

It is worth supporting work communities proactively 

The ways of supporting mental health at work very often focus on supporting individual employees after problems have already arisen.  

“It is vital to identify and solve difficulties and problems at work before they become issues of mental health and coping. A working culture that strengthens wellbeing is made up of actual working conditions, everyday practices and ways of thinking,” says Pauliina Mattila-Holappa, Chief Specialist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. 

The Mental Health Support Toolkit, published in autumn 2021, puts into concrete terms what proactive support for mental health is all about. The Toolkit provides help with issues such as the development of supervisory work, changes in work communities, forming an overall picture of one’s own wellbeing at work and assessing the organisation’s recovery practices.   

“People’s ability to work and their resources vary during their careers, and mental health is not a separate part of working life. Good leadership takes the effects of decisions and daily practices on the personnel’s wellbeing into account proactively,” says Mattila-Holappa. 

Workplace stories are available on the new website of the Mental Health at Work Programme at ennenkuin.fi, which is part of a communications campaign that is being carried out on different media channels this year. The aim is to strengthen the change in attitudes and the new way of communicating, which help develop the operating culture promoting mental health at work. The website offers workplaces information, tips and digital tools for supporting mental health. 

Inquiries: 

Jaana Vastamäki, Project Manager, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected], tel. +358 295 516 3468.  
Pauliina Mattila-Holappa, Chief Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, [email protected], tel. +358 43 824 4041  
Päivi Lehtomurto, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, [email protected], tel. +358 50 415 6309 (requests for interviews with representatives of workplaces)

What is the Mental Health at Work Programme?

The Mental Health at Work Programme is part of the national mental health strategy which aims, among other things, to support mental health in the workplace. The purpose of the Programme is to make workplaces better equipped to support the mental health of employees, and to manage risk factors for mental health issues. Ensuring that employees remain at work will keep the employment rate at the current level and contribute to achieving the employment rate target set in the Government Programme. The Mental Health Support Toolkit, which is free of charge, was published in autumn 2021. Currently, more than 20 workplaces are developing practices to support mental wellbeing proactively through cooperation between workplaces and occupational healthcare services. The model for occupational healthcare cooperation will be published in November 2022. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is implementing the Programme in cooperation with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, mental health organisations and other partners, and an extensive stakeholder network. 

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