Prevent mental illness in the workplace

In many ways, an employer can contribute to a change that prevents mental illness and/or speeds up rehabilitation. Despite this, it’s still taboo to talk about mental illness at many workplaces. Mental illness is the most common cause of sick leave in Sweden.


Clear work tasks

Work preventively with clear tasks. In combination with a pleasant social climate in the workplace, these two factors are important for preventing stress-related mental illness. The staff need to be able to influence their own tasks and to participate in the development work that takes place. Hiring people with different conditions and experiences often contributes to increased creativity and higher ceilings.

Mental health education

Improving the staff’s knowledge of mental health, stress and the like will increase the chances that they will be able to take care of themselves in a more sustainable way, both in the short and long term. Book an inspiring and knowledgeable speaker. Motivate staff to exercise; daily exercise is scientifically proven to prevent mental illness. Remember to emphasize the importance of recovery.

Talk openly about mental illness

Core values are often just nice words on a piece of paper. But show that you’re serious about having a common foundation of values where all employees are treated with respect. Create and maintain a corporate culture where it’s okay to talk about emotions and how you feel. Don’t be judgmental. Listen with an open mind and let it take its time. Always offer support to those people who may need it. It’s always preferable to talk to each other, instead of about each other in a workplace.

Recognizing Warning Signals

Recognizing early signs of mental illness allows you to mobilize the support or assistance needed in time, before it’s too late. Signs of mental illness can be anything from an employee starting to arrive late, working late for no reason or increased sick leave. A person who has severe mood swings or becomes indifferent to things may be at risk for mental illness.

Support to the employee

If there are signs that a person isn’t feeling well, talk to them in person. It’s important to be supportive, listen with an open mind and avoid applying your own standards. The focus is on listening. Give tips on where the person can find more information, such as the care guide. Refer to professional counseling.

Support to the organization

If an employee suffers from mental illness, it often affects the entire department. Due to ignorance and prejudice, the situation can lead to anxiety, awkward social situations and increased workload when a person is ill. Have an open dialogue with the department, without breaking the confidentiality that you promised the person affected.

Include the affected

When a person goes on sick leave, it’s important that the employer maintains contact. To help ensure that sick leave doesn’t go beyond what is necessary and that the absent colleague should feel included in the working group. Don’t be afraid to get in touch.

Use occupational health services

If mental illness is in the form of mild depression or anxiety, occupational health services or primary care can often offer enough support. In the case of severe depression and mental illness, expertise may be needed and should be contacted. If you as an employer are unsure, contact the occupational health rehab coordinator.

Joint planning for support

After an initial assessment, the occupational health rehab coordinator can plan the rehabilitation efforts. Establish direct contact with the Social Insurance Agency, occupational health and any other care provider. Create a plan together for how you can contribute both jointly and individually to improve the affected person’s condition. The affected person is of course the main priority.

Support upon returning to work

A doctor’s note doesn’t always explain what tasks an employee can cope with. It’s different from person to person how they can manage their mental illness and how much support is needed. As the person’s mood improves, you can jointly plan for a return to work. With long-term sick leave, it may be wise to begin the return with some social visits to the workplace. Be responsive to the employee’s need for support.