To understand what a psychological healthy and safe workplace is, it may first warrant a definition of mental health. The World Health Organisation[1] (WHO) defines mental health as:

“a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

The definition is clearly focused on the positive aspects of mental health, as opposed to focusing purely on the absence of illness or stigma. This is important to recognise as it is a common misconception that mental health is purely an absence of illness. Somewhat similarly, a mentally healthy workplace is often misconstrued as simply one that is willing to accept and not discriminate against people with a mental illness. This is still essential, but is a low bar for employers to reach as it doesn’t require much, if any action on their part.

The term “mentally healthy workplace” is likely tainted by the focus by many on an absence of illness and stigma, rather than the presence of positive aspects. Therefore, an arguably better term to use in this context is “psychological health and safety”.

The National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (2013)[2] defines a psychologically healthy and safe workplace as:

“a workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health, including in negligent, reckless or intentional ways”.

This definition encapsulates two main responsibilities for employers: 1) to promote wellbeing, and 2) to prevent harm. As opposed to the connotations regarding a “mentally healthy workplace” – which can be achieved passively, psychological health and safety at work requires committed actions on behalf of an organisation.

As opposed to the connotations regarding a “mentally healthy workplace” – which can be achieved passively, psychological health and safety at work requires committed actions on behalf of an organisation.

To achieve a positive result, it must be recognised that employee mental health can be impacted at work from both the design of work (e.g. workload, co-worker and supervisor support, autonomy), and individual factors (e.g. practising self-care, nurturing positive relationships, savouring positive experiences). Therefore, there is a shared responsibility for psychological health and safety at work.

mental health continuum at work

Mental health is a continuum ranging from illness, to wellness to flourishing (optimal wellbeing). With approximately one quarter of working age people each year likely to reach the point on the continuum where they have a diagnosable mental illness, it is a large scale issue that needs a scalable solution.

People Diagnostix has developed a scalable, enterprise level software solution that helps employers create a psychologically healthy and safe workplace by combining risk management with health promotion at both organisational and individual levels. For more information visit www.flourishdx.com.

[1] https://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/

[2] https://www.csagroup.org/documents/codes-and-standards/publications/CAN_CSA-Z1003-13_BNQ_9700-803_2013_EN.pdf