Good co-operation, competence and early intervention improve employee mental health

Incapacity for work due to mental health disorders has increased. What measures must be taken to improve the work ability of people in Finland? This policy brief includes a list of measures to improve the mental health of the employed population. The key aspects include systematic co-operation between mental health services and occupational health services as well as preventive measures taken at the workplace.
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Hanna Hakulinen

Hanna Hakulinen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health Press release 25 October 2023

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and MIELI Mental Health Finland emphasize in their policy brief that good mental health of the employed population requires co-operation. Sickness absences due to mental health disorders have increased at an alarming rate over the past few years.

The measures included in the policy brief can promote the mental health of the working-age population, prevent future problems and support returning to work. 

Prolonged sickness absences must be avoided

A prolonged sickness absence predicts permanent incapacity for work. For example, among people diagnosed with depression who have a sickness absence of more than six months, approximately half return to work life.

The policy brief underlines that appropriately proportioned work can support rehabilitation and, in cases of mild or moderate depression, for example, it is typically possible to continue working without long sickness absences.

“Applying efficient work ability support measures already before the sickness absence becomes prolonged is of key importance. The special expertise of occupational health services should be used more widely in assessing and supporting work ability,” says Research Manager Hanna Hakulinen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

The first three parts of the policy brief outline how the co-operation between social welfare and health care operators and occupational health services should be developed:

  • Co-operation between occupational health care and other operators in the social welfare and health sector must be strengthened when it comes to treating mental health disorders of the working-age population.
  • Supporting work ability and the positive effects that work has on mental health must be taken into account when treating mental health disorders in the working-age population.
  • Mental health competencies of occupational health services and other operators in the social welfare and health care sector must be strengthened.

Workplaces must improve the resources of work

Promoting mental health is important in maintaining work ability and preventing incapacity for work. The earlier you invest in these measures, the more opportunities you have available. Resources and problems must be improved and prevented with regard to both individuals and work communities.

“Good mental health is based on the daily life of a work community. Surprising events, various changes at the workplace, work-related stress or challenges in private life can be stressful and make it difficult to cope with work. Good, systematic daily practices of the workplace and high-quality leadership support coping with work even in the face of changes,” says Director Timo Lehtinen from MIELI Mental Health Finland.

The final two parts of the policy brief concern the role of workplaces in promoting mental health:

  • The promotion of mental health must play a greater role in work ability support measures. 
  • Workplaces’ and entrepreneurs’ competencies and measures for strengthening mental health must be supported.

Learn more

Further information

  • Hanna Hakulinen, Research Manager, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)43 824 1072, hanna.hakulinen [at]
  • Timo Lehtinen, Director, Adults and Work Life, MIELI Mental Health Finland, +358 (0)40 158 2212, timo.lehtinen [at]

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