Solutions to the Workplace Mental Health Crisis in America: What the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report and the Healthy Work Campaign Want You to Know Today

LOS ANGELES, March 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Do you recall when stressed doctors and nurses took their lives–at the height of the COVID pandemic? It was eye-opening for many.  Like the U.S. Surgeon General, the Healthy Work Campaign’s response is not to look past this continuing very serious issue of worker mental health–in health care, as well as many more occupations throughout the U.S.

“Covid-19 has changed the nature of work, the link between work and health has never been more evident, and it’s taking a toll on worker mental health,” so says the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy in Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-being (Oct, 2022).

At this pivotal time for worker health and safety, the Healthy Work Campaign launched the  Healthy Work Survey. The Healthy Work Survey, sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Social Epidemiology, is a free, online, and anonymous tool for individuals, businesses and unions, to assess many of the work stressors that impact mental health including those reported by the Surgeon General’s Report. Survey results are fully automated, immediately available and free to all individuals and organizations.

Work can influence mental and physical health by inducing stress that becomes unmanageable. Supported by four decades of scientific research, we know that workplace stress impacted mental health long before the pandemic.

“Stressors arise from heavy workloads, long commutes, unpredictable schedules, limited autonomy, long work hours, multiple jobs, low wages … hostile or dangerous working conditions, harassment, and discrimination.” (US Surgeon General Report)

“Among work stress researchers and advocates, this new survey is considered a vital first step towards enabling changes to make work safer and healthier,” says Dr. Peter Schnall, Co-Director of the Healthy Work Campaign.

The mission of the Healthy Work Campaign is to reduce harmful work stressors and improve job quality and health. As the U.S. Surgeon General states, “Workplaces can be engines of well-being.” “Healthy work can also be good for business – preventing burnout, improving retention, lowering healthcare costs and absenteeism, improving productivity, and ultimately saving lives,” says Dr. Marnie Dobson, Director of the Healthy Work Campaign.

The Healthy Work Survey can be utilized by all organizations seeking to improve workplace mental health and physical well-being. It is an important first step in fulfilling the vision set forward for employers in the U.S. Surgeon’s General Report. Giving workers a voice and “creating an environment where workers’ voices are supported without fear of job loss or retaliation is an essential component of healthy organizations.”

While the Healthy Work Campaign applauds the Report, which acknowledges work is a social determinant of health, there are many more steps to take to achieve healthy workplaces in the U.S. While many organizations care about their employees and seek to improve employee mental health and well-being, unfortunately this is not yet the norm. Many businesses profit from unhealthy working conditions. Regulation of workplace stressors is the responsibility of OSHA which has yet to recognize that workplace stressors are making working people ill nor has it pursued any standards for the regulation of work stressors. 

“If we want all workplaces to be psychologically healthy and safe places to work, to include the most vulnerable workers exposed to the greatest amount of work stress, OSHA needs to follow the many other high-income countries that already provide guidelines, standards or legislation to ensure healthy work,” says Dr. Peter Schnall.

Zach Schnall

SOURCE Healthy Work Campaign