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Promoting healthy working environments for small businesses

An EU-backed project is tackling poor mental health for workers employed in SMEs in the construction, health and ICT sectors.

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The workplace can pose a risk to our mental health. Enormous workloads, discrimination, job insecurity and other poor working conditions all have a negative impact on our emotional, psychological and social well-being. In Europe, one in five workers suffer from anxiety and depression. Those working in construction, health and ICT are found to have poorer mental health, lower well-being and a higher risk of suicide. This is why the EU-funded MENTUPP project has focused on improving worker mental health and well-being in SMEs in these three sectors. The project has specifically targeted small workplaces for a very important reason. While SMEs make up more than 90 % of all EU businesses, they have a limited capacity to support their employees’ well-being and mental health. The MENTUPP consortium recently published a policy brief in support of International Self-Injury Awareness Day (SIAD). Observed on 1 March every year, SIAD raises awareness on the impact of self-harm and offers support and resources to people who engage in this behaviour. This mission is in line with one of MENTUPP’s goals, which is to prevent self-harm and suicide. “Self-harming behaviour is most often accompanied by intense feelings of hopelessness, depression, and/or anxiety,” explains the policy brief. “Despite the serious physical and emotional consequences of self-harm, individuals who engage in this behaviour often face stigma and lack of understanding, hindering their ability to seek professional help.” The policy brief also outlines some actions that governments can take to prevent self-harm among EU citizens. These include increasing the capacity of and access to mental health services, promoting public awareness and understanding, developing and implementing policies that promote mental health and prevent self-harm, as well as tackling poverty, unemployment and social inequality.

Online resources to the rescue

To help workers cope with stress, burnout, anxiety and depression, the project team developed the MENTUPP Hub, an online tool that helps SMEs create a healthy work environment. Through the MENTUPP Hub, users can learn how to improve their mental health and communicate with one another about mental health difficulties. As reported in an article posted on ‘HORIZON: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine’, the MENTUPP team was inspired by an Australian suicide prevention programme developed to help construction workers open up about anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. “We hope MENTUPP can support people with their mental health,” states Prof. Ella Arensman of MENTUPP project coordinator University College Cork, Ireland. “Then maybe the progression of depression can be reversed.” Although the MENTUPP (Mental Health Promotion and Intervention in Occupational Settings: MENTUPP) system needs to be further refined and improved before it can be deployed more widely, it has already yielded positive results in a small Irish company that used it to support the mental well-being of one of its employees. “They told us that, if they hadn’t had these resources, they would not have identified the warning signs,” comments Prof. Arensman. “With these resources, they could better identify what was going on and intervene.” For more information, please see: MENTUPP project website

Keywords

MENTUPP, mental health, well-being, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide, SME, worker