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Ensuring there is 'no mind left behind'

Date posted
14 May 2024
Dr Karen Michell
Estimated reading time
2 minute read

Dr Karen Michell, our research programme lead for occupational health, is blogging regularly throughout mental health awareness week from 13–19 May. In her first blog of the week, Karen highlights the challenges for small and medium sized enterprises in supporting workers' mental health.

Stress is something we are all familiar with in one form or another.

The stress from our personal lives including family, health and financial pressures, as well as those from our workplace such as demands of the job, long working hours, shift work and lack of autonomy, all have the ability to affect our mental health.

Numerous studies1, 2 have shown a strong link between work and mental health with workers experiencing both positive and negative effects. From a positive perspective good work is beneficial to us as it:

  • gives structure to our day and a sense of purpose to our lives
  • provides financial security which allows us to do the things we enjoy
  • enables us to achieve self-actualisation and provides social contact.

All of which help to maintain good mental health.

On the other hand, a poorly managed workplace can be characterised by:

  • demanding work pressures
  • long working hours
  • role conflicts due to poor personal relationships
  • lack of clarity in job descriptions and a lack of recognition for our efforts.

These all can have an opposite impact on individuals, causing both mental and physical ill health.

It is estimated that one in eight people will experience poor mental health at some time in their life3. To prevent these adverse health effects, it is important that organisations develop and implement interventions designed to create mentally healthy workplaces and that they understand the needs of their workforce.

Many large organisations have achieved this but for the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) there are many challenges which make achieving mentally healthy workplaces difficult. If the SMEs do not address the issue of mental health efficiently, a large sector of the working population will be left behind. Putting this into context, this equates to almost 90 per cent of the global workforce4, something which highlights the potential scale of the problem.

To mark mental health awareness week, over the next three days, I’ll explore some of the findings from the recently concluded MENTUPP project5. This EU funded study aimed to examine the experiences and needs of SMEs concerning the promotion of employee wellbeing, and the prevention and management of non-clinical mental health problems in these workplaces.


  1. Allan BA, Dexter C, Kinsey R, Parker S. Meaningful work and mental health: Job satisfaction as a moderator. Journal of mental health. 2018;27(1):38-44.
  2. Modini M, Joyce S, Mykletun A, Christensen H, Bryant RA, Mitchell PB, Harvey SB. The mental health benefits of employment: Results of a systematic meta-review. Australasian Psychiatry. 2016;24(4):331-6.
  3. WHO. Mental health Geneva2022 [Available from:
  4. Arnold C. The foundation for economies worldwide is small business 2019 [Available from:,economy%20%E2%80%93%20they%20ARE%20the%20economy].
  5. Coppens E, Hogg B, Greiner BA, Paterson C, de Winter L, Mathieu S, et al. Promoting employee wellbeing and preventing non-clinical mental health problems in the workplace: a preparatory consultation survey. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology. 2023;18(1):17.

Last updated: 16 May 2024

Dr Karen Michell

Job role
Research Programme Lead (Occupational Health)

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