We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
The pandemic has made public knowledge of something those of us in occupational safety and health have known for quite some time: employee mental health matters. It also cannot be improved without great attention and effort. A workplace culture that promotes mental health awareness demands both organizational support and individual commitment.
On Tuesday June 15th, staff and faculty from the Center for Health, Work & Environment (CHWE) at the Colorado School of Public Health and the Department of Family Medicine at the Colorado School of Medicine hosted a training on workplace mental health with 34 regional managers from Region VIII of the US Department of Labor’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The event focused on workplace mental health at both the organizational and individual level. Health Links™, a public health outreach program at CHWE, launched the Workplace Mental Health Module in May of 2021 to address the growing need for evidence-based mental health resources for employers.
“At the organizational level, workplace mental health can be measured across four benchmarks: workplace culture, employee benefits, education and training, and equity and accessibility,” says David Shapiro, Health Links Program Manager at CHWE. “We are seeing that employers don’t often think about how mental health is showing up across all four of these domains.”
“One of the best ways to assist co-workers is by understanding and attending to your personal needs and mental well-being,” says Dr. Alex Reed from the CU Department of Family Medicine. “No matter your schedule or competing demands, there are practical tools you can utilize to improve your own mental health. Healthy communication is key.”
In the training, Dr. Reed walked participants through an evidence-based communication framework to support mental health awareness called the “Three A-s”. “Attune is the ability to know yourself and others an important first step in the process,” says Dr. Reed. “Affirm is the ability to validate self and others, and finally, Advance is the ability to enrich others and oneself through the creation and delivery of ideas, allowing a conversation to move forward.”
Leaders and employees who invest in their own self-care are best-positioned to assist others in the workplace. To invest in self-care, Dr. Reed recommends scheduling and taking time out of your day to do something pleasurable; practicing mindfulness meditation; engaging in moderate exercise; getting healthy sleep; and trying the 3 Good Things exercise. Each of these activities can be as effective as cognitive therapy and some antidepressants. Combined, they are a powerful antidote to the pervasive feelings of languishing, anxiety, and depression.
“The workplace mental health training was very helpful [for our regional managers]” says Megan Meagher, Acting Deputy Regional Administrator of OSHA’s Region VIII. “It provided great tools for our leadership team to take home and was very engaging.” Learn more about Total Worker Health leadership through COVID-19 here. You can also learn more about the State of Workplace Mental Health here.
Written by David Shapiro, Health Links program manager for the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.