Mental Health

The development of an e-learning programme to support retention and return to work for individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder

Dr Debbie Cohen, Cardiff University

Bipolar affective disorder is a severe mental illness with an annual socio-economic cost esimated at over 2 billion in the UK alone. Dame Carol Black's report (2008) highlighted that enabling individuals to return to work can have considerable financial benefits, including better workplace productivity, reduced benefit payments and reduced NHS time.

The overarching aim of this study was to develop an intervention to improve the retention and return to work process for an employee with bipolar disorder.

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Computerised CBT for common mental health disorders: RCT of a workplace intervention

Depression and anxiety are recognised as major causes of underperformance at work and long-term absences of employees. Considerable investment has been directed at effective, brief treatments, based largely on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Computerised interventions have potential to meet rising demand for CBT, and also appear to have many other advantages.

We were commissioned by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation to investigate an intervention that could be administered in the workplace in order to explore the potential benefits to employers of making it available, if effective. This study found no evidence that MoodGYM was superior to informational websites in terms of psychological outcomes or service use. However, users of MoodGYM took less time off work during the study period, leading to lower costs for employers. The qualitative comments from participants offer information for further development of internet interventions to meet the continuing demand for cognitive behaviour therapy.

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A controlled comparison study to evaluate different management strategies for workplace trauma

formerly 'Early Intervention following Trauma'

This fully funded project was carried out within the Royal Mail Group. It addressed two issues:

  • should organisations debrief workers who have suffered or witnessed traumatic events?
  • if not, what should they do instead?

This is believed to be the first study to look at trauma in an occupational setting, and to include groups of people rather than just individuals. In addition it is believed to be the first to include witnesses to traumatic events. A conference to launch the results of this project took place in November 2006.

The first organisation-based research on early interventions following events at work that may give rise to psychological trauma, and, in some cases, to post traumatic stress disorder

The longitudinal research found that

  • The trauma management procedures used at RMG are a safe response to trauma
  • The 'support post trauma' (SPoT) protocol is effective in relaying information to employees about symptoms and further sources of support within the organisation
  • Organisational activity which enhances an individual's feelings of support post-trauma (particularly practical support) is associated with lower symptoms at three months and lower absence at 12 months

The implications of these findings in relation to the National Institute for Health and Clinical excellence (NICE) guidelines on the treatment of psychological trauma and organisational approaches to trauma management are considered in the report.

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Workplace interventions for people with common mental health problems: evidence review and recommendations

The findings of this “gold standard” evidence review

were launched in London and Edinburgh in September 2005. Over 200 senior managers, HR professionals, policy makers and health professionals from private and public sectors, DWP, Dept of Health and the Scottish Executive pooled their thoughts both on the findings and the key gaps in the evidence.

Their roundtable discussion points on the way forwards for policy, practice and future research are also available:

In addition to the full review, summaries are available for health professionals

and for employers and employees

The review has looked at worldwide published research to find evidence based answers to the following questions:

  • What is the evidence for preventative programmes at work and what are the conditions under which they are most effective?
  • For those employees identified at risk, what interventions most effectively enable them to remain at work?
  • For those employees who have had periods of mental ill health related sickness, what interventions most effectively support their rehabilitation and return to work?

One in six of the general population has common mental health problems at any one time, although some put the figure as high as one in four. The costs of work related mental health problems in the UK alone are estimated at £23.1 billion (2002/3 data).

You can obtain free hard copies of the evidence review and recommendations on application to BOHRF

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Mental ill-health in the workforce

This study aimed to establish the incidence of mental ill-health among the working population. It partially succeeded, despite being unable to access data from the Labour Force Survey (due to that data not being in the public domain). Reasonable data on incidence of mental ill-health was presented. A clear association between employability and mental health was demonstrated. The study also enabled a subsequent focus on key areas for investigation in future studies.

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Unique research on job control: findings

A longitudinal research study showed that making small changes at the level of the organisation can make significant improvements to the mental wellbeing and attendance at work in people who have little control over their own jobs. A good return on investment was achieved. The final report on the research is given here

  • Improves attendance at work
  • Improves mental health
  • Improves commitment to the organisation and motivation
  • Achieves substantial cost benefits

This is believed to be the first published research looking at job control in groups of workers who previously had no discretion over how their job should be done.

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Mental ill-health job retention, rehabilitation, early retirement, effective interventions: evidence based review and summary

Last Update: 28-Jul-2013