WHO and ILO release new guidance on mental health at work 

WHO and ILO release new guidance on mental health at work

The World Health Organization and International Labour Organization have released new guidelines on mental health at work.  

The new guidelines from the World Health (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) have called for more concrete action to address mental health work. 

Each year, an estimated 12 billion workdays are lost due to depression and anxiety. It is estimated that this costs the global economy US$1 trillion annually. 

The WHO global guidelines on mental health at work recommend action surrounding heavy workloads, negative behaviours, and other factors that can cause mental health issues. WHO has recommended manager training to help build the capacity to prevent stressful work environments and guidance on how managers can respond to distressed workers. 

Mental health issues affect a vast number of people

WHO’s mental health report, published in June 2022, showed that one billion people were living with a mental health disorder in 2019. A reported 15% of working-age adults have experienced a mental health disorder.  

WHO believes that work can amplify wider societal issues that negatively affect mental health, such as discrimination and inequality. Bullying and psychological violence, sometimes called mobbing, is cited as a key complaint of workplace behaviour that can impact mental health. Despite these common issues, mental health often remains taboo in the workplace.  

The guidelines look to tackle this by recommending better ways to intervene with vulnerable workers. Guidance on facilitating and supporting the return to work for people with severe mental health conditions is included in the strategy. The guidelines also emphasise the importance of interventions for the protection of health, humanitarian, and emergency workers. 

“It’s time to focus on the detrimental effect work can have on our mental health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. 

“The well-being of the individual is reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also have a debilitating impact on a person’s performance and productivity. These new guidelines can help prevent negative work situations and cultures and offer much-needed mental health protection and support for working people.”  

A stigma around mental health at work remains

A further WHO/ILO policy brief outlines practical strategies for governments, employers and workers, and their organisations, in both public and private sectors. Who says the aim of the policy brief is to ‘support the prevention of mental health risks, protect and promote mental health at work, and support those with mental health conditions, so they can participate and thrive in the world of work.’  

“As people spend a large proportion of their lives in work – a safe and healthy working environment is critical. We need to invest to build a culture of prevention around mental health at work, reshape the work environment to stop stigma and social exclusion, and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported,” said, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General. 


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