Barriers and facilitators to return to work in mental disorders: Multi-stakeholder perspective study (poster)

M.C.W. Joosen, I. Arends, M. Lugtenberg, J.A.W.M. van Gestel, B.C.T.M. Schaapveld, B. Terluin, J. van Weeghel, J.J.L. van der Klink, E.P.M. Brouwers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Common mental disorders (CMDs) are among the leading causes of disability worldwide and are a pressing issue for society. CMDs are the most prevalent causes of sickness absence and different stakeholders are involved in facilitating return to work. In this qualitative study, the perspective of key stakeholders on the complexity of the return to work process of workers sick-listed due to CMDs is explored.

Four focus groups were conducted, each with 8-11 representatives: (1) supervisors, (2) occupational health specialists, (3) mental health professionals, (4) general physicians. The interviews focused on the most important barriers and facilitators for the return to work process. The focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed to enable content analysis using ATLAS.ti.
Five themes were identified as central to a successful return to work: (1) a worker’s motivation to return versus worker’s emotions, cognitions and coping; (2) type of work one returns to, fulfilling and motivating activities; (3) a safe, welcoming and stigma-free work environment; (4) personalized return to work support; and (5) collaboration between (health care) professionals. Besides similarities, differences between perspectives were found especially between supervisors and the other groups. Supervisors did not spoke about the effect of conflicts between worker and supervisor. Also, health care professionals emphasized the importance of providing psycho-education to the worker, the supervisors did not mention this.

Five themes were mentioned by different key stakeholders. In 3 of these themes the supervisor/employer has the most important role in facilitating return to work. Agreement about the five themes suggests that stakeholders know what is needed to support the worker and to facilitate a swift return to work. However, since sickness absence is still highly prevalent, it shows a gap between what is known and what is done in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue numbersuppl. 3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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