Mental Health Matters: A Guide to Organisational & Personal Resilience

October 2, 2023


Delphine Caprez

Can you believe that one in two persons will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their life? It means over 4 billion people will be personally touched by such disorders. And if you like data, how about this one: 9 out of 10 people know someone with a psychological issue.

Before we start honouring World Mental Health Day on 10 October, and more importantly, to look after your mental health in case reading long articles triggers anxiety or panic attacks, you can scroll down straight to the personal and organizational plans at the bottom. Otherwise, simply keep reading.

The effects of mental health disorders in the world of work have never been more significant or visible than now. The latest WHO report (2022) shows that the global economy loses an estimated 12 billion working days yearly to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Yes, one trillion has 12 zeros, which is lost yearly due to lost productivity linked to depression and anxiety. What does it mean for you and your organization? Read on to find out with a real-life example. 

Mental health issues and other stress-related disorders are recognized as being among the leading causes of early retirement, high absenteeism rates, general health problems, poor leadership and poor organizational efficiency. In addition, mental health risks are also linked to new technologies, overload of processes, lack of competencies and organization agility, digitalization, speed, and overload of information, also called infobesity.

And we have not even started talking about post-pandemic effects, which did bring out more mental disorders than expected. 

Do we need more reasons to convince organizations to tackle this topic as part of their resilience and well-being strategy? Before going any further, let’s redefine the terms so we’re all discussing the same thing.

What Do We Mean by Mental Health?

According to WHO, mental health is “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community”. It is also a basic human right crucial to personal, organizational and socio-economic development.

We can’t talk about mental health without addressing mental illness. Familiar expressions are used to designate mental disorders – like the ones I heard no later than last week by well-intentioned participants – such as bonkers, mentally ill, mad, crazy, crippled, psycho, lunatic, or deranged. They promote rejection and stigmatization and should be avoided (Mental Health First Aid, 2019, ensa). 

The term mental disorder is a broad term encompassing both mental illnesses and their symptoms, which may not be severe enough to allow a pathology to be diagnosed. It also includes crisis states associated with a mental illness (Mental Health First Aid, 2019, ensa). Here are a few mental disorders and their crisis states to give you an idea of how broad this topic is: depression, bipolar disorder, burnout, anxiety disorders (incl. phobias, post-traumatic stress, panic attack, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder), psychosis (incl. schizophrenia), substance use disorders (incl. alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, cocaine, meds, etc.), eating disorders (incl. anorexia, bulimia, binge eating) and finally my favourite topic being behavioural addictions (internet/screens, sports, work, video gaming, gambling, compulsive buying, sex/porn, tattoos, etc.). We could also add chronic stress, which, in some cases, can be seen as a mental disorder. Is it any wonder why so many people are affected at least once in their life?

Finally, we can’t cover mental health without mentioning psychosocial risks (PSR). According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, psychosocial risk is defined as the risk of harming a worker's psychological or physical well-being arising from poor work design, organization and management, as well as a poor social context of work

There is indeed a clear relationship between PSR management and employee mental health. Stress at work is associated with mental ill health, even though it is not considered a mental disorder.

How Much Do Mental Disorders Cost Your Organization?

We mentioned above US$ 1 trillion per year in productivity loss due to depression and anxiety disorders. What does it mean for you and your organization? Several guidelines and formulas are designed to help organizations better understand the estimated financial cost of psychosocial risks and chronic stress at work.

Here is one of them, developed by Ravi Tangri, a Canadian expert in strategy and leadership and author of the book “Stress Costs, Stress Cures”. Ravi is also certified with the Resilience Institute to map organizations and chart how to build resilience and effectiveness. Ravi’s formula, which incorporates six elements, is one of those presented by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA, 2014):

·        19% of absenteeism costs

·        40% of staff turnover costs

·        55% of Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

·        30% of short- and long-term disability costs

·        60% of total costs of workplace accidents (professional only)

·        100% costs of workers’ compensation and lawsuits due to stress

Let’s put this formula into practice. I used it to calculate one of my client’s annual stress and psychosocial risk costs. My client is a company based in Switzerland, with around 3,000 employees, well positioned on the market, with an average absenteeism rate (4%), below average employee turnover rate (3%), a classic EAP of less than Euro 40/employee, short- and long-term disability costs and workplace accident costs of less than 1M Euros, no costs related to workers’ compensation claims and stress-related legal proceedings. Their annual expenses related to stress and PSRs reached 3.9 million Euros. Scary, isn’t it? 

A Guide to Implementing Mental Health in Your Organization. Why and How?

If you still need reasons WHY it’s important to focus on mental health, apart from reducing your costs, here are a few: it will help you focus on economic pressure, on developing more human leadership (authentic, empathic, and adaptive), on recruiting scarce future talents, on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, on reducing quiet quitting and presenteeism, and finally on fostering mental health and well-being. 

HOW to do it? It might be time to reshape your foundations. Here is a non-exhaustive list of initiatives that will have an impact on the psychosocial risks of your organization:

  • Conduct a need, data and risks analysis with the use of a robust resilience and/or mental health diagnostic or a proper health risk assessment tool. Indeed, only what gets measured gets done.
  • Provide a culture that embraces inclusion, equity and diversity. It is about ending the stigma and discrimination by raising awareness on the subjects to break the silence and the taboos.
  • Set up policies and regulations on overtime, vacation, harassment, ethics & compliance, code of conduct, and psychological safety. Including a pillar or pilot group focused on mental health and psychosocial risks (PSR) might also be useful.
  • Train and coach your leaders.Several studies show a direct link between managers’ skills, behaviors and habits and the mental health of their direct reports. Also, to ensure the good mental health of his/her team members, a leader must be trained to detect health risks, including PSRs, and behave in a way that will help reduce such risks. Such training should also include leaders’ self-assessment, specific components on leaders’ self-care, how to look after themselves, and how to manage their own mental health level, emotions, and chronic stress.
  • Offer targeted resilience and mental health training programs. I won’t give you ideas of what such a program should include as it will depend on your assessment and needs analysis. However, here are a few ideas of what could really impact leaders' and employees’ mental health: mental health first aid, sleep and fatigue, stress and change management, resilience, suicide prevention, addiction awareness, and employee assistance programs, especially for a younger generation. Don’t forget to measure, map and evaluate the outcome of your program and revise what needs to be amended.
  • Get the right resources onboard! Once again, it depends on your budget. Here are a few ideas of certain roles and resources that could help positively impact employees: a person of trust, internal mediator, occupational health nurses, mental health first aiders, group discussions, etc.

As 10 October is World Mental Health, we could not end this article without mentioning a few ideas to strengthen individual – meaning your mental health and resilience.

Your Personal Guide to Improve Your Mental Health

You probably already know most of the ideas below, we just want to reinforce the message that looking after yourself physically, socially, emotionally, mentally, and digitally will have a positive impact on your own mental health:

  • Make time for physical pampering.  Be physically active, we know that, for certain people, exercising has almost the same impact as taking anti-depressants (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021). Look after your sleep and go to bed earlier to ensure enough deep sleep, especially now we are going to daylight savings in the northern hemisphere. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, food rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), rich in protein, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, as they are all excellent brain food.
  • Ensure you have a social support group close to you. Whether your family, friends, or even pets, we know that social interaction positively impacts your brain and mental well-being.
  • Be mindful of your digital consumption. By nurturing offline connections and seeking support when you feel you simply can’t switch off. It is possible to navigate the digital age with resilience to protect our mental health.
  • Explore alternative and complementary options, such as relaxation, meditation, hatha yoga, massages, support groups, bright light therapy, music therapy, etc.
  • Be kind to yourself, and practice self-compassion and gratitude. Physiologically, kindness and self-compassion can positively change your brain by boosting serotonin and dopamine levels. These neurotransmitters produce feelings of satisfaction and well-being and light up your brain's pleasure and reward centers. Practising gratitude can also improve mental health in some meaningful ways.

Finally, reducing psychosocial and mental health risks is a major issue for organizations. When properly tackled, it shows an organization’s ability to be efficient and sustainable. Questions of costs, productivity, and legal obligations dictate this subject. It is also a public health issue since, thanks to its ability to reach all active members of the labour market, the workplace is and must remain a fundamental player in promoting mental health in the population.

Written by Delphine Caprez Corporate Health Consultant, Author and Senior Consultant at Resilience Institute.


Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression, (2021), Harvard Health Publishing, Viewed on 22 September 2023 at:

Mental Health First Aid, (first print edition 2019), ensa, Swiss Foundation Pro Mente Sana, Zürich

OSHA, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, (2014), Calculating the costs of work-related stress and psychosocial risks. Viewed on 22 September 2023 at:

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