Educating health professionals about workplace mental health

Health professionals are used to focusing on improving their patients' symptoms.  We believe it is often equally important for health professionals to think about their patients' functional recovery, especially their occupational functioning.  However, this can be practically difficult and there is ample evidence that occupational outcomes are often considered in too little detail and too late by health professionals.  General practitioners, who the key professionals making initial decisions about sick leave and return to work are usually very busy, short on time and frequently report feeling underskilled to make judgements about mental health and work capability.  We are working together with our collaborators from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to test a new system, where general practitioners are provided additional support and training on how they can help patients with mental illness remain in the workplace.  The results of this randomised controlled trail should be available in 2015.  We have also recently completed testing a new type of mental health training to occupational health nurses.  We found that a one-day interactive workshop was a feasible and effective method of improving nurses’ confidence, knowledge and application of practical skills in key areas of workplace mental health.