February 1, 2024

New OSHA Fact Sheet Outlines Workplace Mental Health Concerns

A new fact sheet published by OSHA (PDF) summarizes the causes and symptoms of trauma, substance use disorder, and suicidality—mental health concerns common in U.S. workplaces—and provides resources to help workers in crises. “Mental health is an important component of overall well-being and is equally as vital as physical health for all employees,” OSHA states. “Mental health concerns due to work have the potential to adversely impact an employee's social interactions, productivity, performance, and absenteeism.”

Employees in all industries may be affected by traumatic events, including industrial accidents, the death or injury of coworkers, and abuse or assault of coworkers or clients, OSHA says. People who experience traumatic events may feel anxious, sad, or angry; experience terrifying thoughts or flashbacks; have recurring nightmares; be confused or unable to think clearly; have difficulty falling and staying asleep; or frighten easily. These may be symptoms of acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, conditions that require professional treatment.

Substance use disorder is “a persistent desire for substances even in the face of negative consequences,” OSHA explains. Workers may develop dependences on illegal drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol for reasons that include the presence of chronic pain or injuries or other mental health conditions.

Both traumatic events and substance use disorders may increase a person’s risk of developing suicidal thoughts and suicide, OSHA warns. Other risk factors include mental health conditions such as depression, health issues such as chronic pain or illness, prolonged stress, recent tragedy or loss, criminal or legal problems, and job loss or financial problems. OSHA stresses that people of any age, gender, or background may have thoughts of suicide and that untreated mental health conditions may lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. “That is why it is important to provide resources and encourage people to get help when they are having mental health concerns, experiencing traumatic events, or battling substance use disorders,” the fact sheet states.

According to the fact sheet, more than 12 million U.S. adults seriously think about suicide every year, and more than one million attempt suicide. People in crisis may call or text 988, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, at any time for free, confidential counseling.

OSHA’s fact sheet on workplace mental health may be downloaded from the agency’s website.

Related: Several articles published recently in The Synergist offer further reading on topics related to mental health: “Mental Health in the Workplace: Tips for Supporting Workers' Mental Well-Being” from the October 2021 issue, “Worker Well-Being in the Great Resignation: A Story of Risks, Ills, and Cultures” from the April 2022 issue, “Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace: How DEI Improves Psychological Safety Culture” from the March 2021 issue, and “Mental Health in Construction” from the May 2021 issue.