Mental Health in the Workplace: a priority for the organization

10 October 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day.

This year’s theme is important for all UN staff: Mental Health in the Workplace. 

A recent World Federation for Mental Health report notes that one of the most common health problems observed in the workplace, either mental or physical, is depression:

  • 10% of the employed population have taken time off work for depression.
  • 50% of people with depression are untreated.
  • 70% of people with poor mental health actively conceal their ill-health from others, and very many do so because they fear discrimination

A 2015 survey of UN staff showed that UN personnel are not immune from these issues.  Almost 35% of the survey respondents reported symptoms of poor mental health, and very few were receiving any kind of professional support.

World Mental Health day, with a theme of Mental Health in the Workplace reminds all of us that we need to be more active about raising awareness and promoting staff mental health across the UN system, including providing better access to professional services, tackling concerns about stigma, promoting help-seeking and early intervention, and proactively supporting recovery and return to work. 

The HR network is finalising a five-year strategic action plan to improve mental health in the UN workplace. The strategy has been developed by collaboration between healthcare professionals, HR experts, ombudsmen and staff representatives.  Details of the Strategy, as well as results of the global mental health survey, will be published soon.

 In the meantime, each of us has a role to play. Here are some things you can do now:

  • Contribute to a culture of acceptance, openness, and respect.
  • Start a conversation: “Are you ok?”
  • Do what matters most to your well-being regularly—maybe even daily.
  •  If you are a manager, ask yourself: What could I do differently to strengthen a psychologically healthy, respectful working environment? Evidence shows that healthy teams are usually more productive teams.

“People find it difficult to disclose that they have mental health difficulties in the workplace—yet nobody is immune from mental health difficulties. Real health is about health of the body, mind and spirit.  When we attend to all of these, we can be our best selves and do our best work to serve the UN and its important role in the world” said Dr Jillann Farmer, the UN Medical Director.   

The Department of Management, through OHRM’s Medical Services Division supports enhancement of staff health and wellbeing.

For information about confidential UN staff counselling, contact or visit the Medical Services page on the HR Portal for details on the services they provide.

For information on events held at Headquarters in New York, click here.