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Mental Health Barometer: Work career can continue despite mental health problems

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 20.11.2017 10.00
Press release 168/2017 MSAH and MTKL inform

Workplaces want to support persons who have mental health problems and their capacity for work. Work communities need to be coached to encounter fellow workers who have been absent from work due to mental health problems. In addition, the work tasks need to be adjusted to meet the situation of the mental health rehabilitee. This is what a clear majority of the respondents to the mental health barometer say.

The Finnish Central Association for Mental Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published today the new Mental Health Barometer and opened a national mental health week. The respondents to the barometer included employers, employees, mental health rehabilitees and mental healthcare professionals as well as representatives of the whole population (aged 15-74 years). For the first time, the theme of the barometer is working life.

Only half of workplaces have carried out measures to support mental capacity for work

Only about half of the workplaces have carried out practical measures to support mental capacity for work. Usually the support means having breaks in work and working remotely or working less hours than normally. Methods used more seldom included equipment that made the work easier or reorganising the work. However, general measures to support capacity for work have been carried out in nine workplaces out of ten. The occurrence of mental strain has been surveyed and strain factors have been reduced or eliminated in about two workplaces out of three.

Social support is important to mental health rehabilitees and helps them to cope at work. According to the rehabilitees, the best support comes from the family, friends, other close people, fellow workers, rehabilitation (medicines, therapy) and peers.  Mental healthcare professionals emphasise such sources of support as rehabilitation, support from a superior, adjustment of work and support from family and other close people.

Most respondents say that the main responsibility for measures supporting mental health in the workplace rests with the superior and the occupational healthcare provider.  It is also important that the person concerned participates in the planning of measures needed. Both rehabilitees and employers wish that a large group of experts would be involved: work coaches or coordinators, rehabilitation organisers, providers of mental healthcare services. Employers also hope that human resources administration as well as occupational safety and health personnel would participate. Rehabilitees consider it important that even other employees would be involved.

About half of the workplaces have not carried out any measures supporting mental capacity for work. According to the employers, the reason to this is that there is no need for support measures because there are no mental health rehabilitees in the work community. Mental healthcare professionals assess, however, that adaptation of work is not seen as useful in workplaces or there is not enough guidance showing how to do it.

On the other hand, respondents also told that mental health problems are not always mentioned at workplaces and therefore employers may not be aware of them. This proves that workplaces need to be encouraged to bring the subject into discussion and better skills are needed to support employees who have mental health problems.

One fifth of the population are afraid of mental health rehabilitees

According to the mental health barometer, the negative label often connected with mental health problems is still strong. Almost a fifth of the population are afraid of mental health rehabilitees: 19 per cent would not want to have rehabilitees as neighbours, and 18 per cent consider it is unpleasant and frightening to encounter them.

Among the rehabilitees, 39 per cent considered that mental illness puts a negative label on people. This opinion was shared by as many as 69 per cent of the mental healthcare professionals.

The negative label is also visible in working life. If information spreads about an employee’s or superior’s mental health problems, it can lead to loss of job, status or appreciation. A majority of all other respondents than employers felt this way. About a half of the employers agreed to this opinion.

A very large majority believes that persons having mental health problems can live a normal life with the help of medicines, psychotherapy and other forms of support. Most respondents also consider that there is no need to blame oneself for having mental health problems.


Jaana Vastamäki, Senior Officer, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 2951 63468, [email protected]

Heini Kapanen, Development Director, Finnish Central Association for Mental Health, tel. +358 46 9200 564, [email protected]

Mental Health Barometer 2017

  • The barometer will open the national mental health week focusing on working life matters.
  • The material was mainly collected in June and supplemented in August 2017.
  • Respondents: mental health rehabilitees and their families (300 persons), employer representatives (management from workplaces with more than 5 employees, 300 persons), psychologists and psychiatrists (1033 persons), Finns between 15 and 74 years of age (1205 persons, 643 of them in working life)
  • Published by: The Finnish Central Association for Mental Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
  • Implementation by: Kantar TNS Oy
  • The Finnish Central Association for Mental Health has published mental health barometers since 2005