Policy Fellow Diane Rohlman

Portrait of Diane Rohlman, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

Dr. Diane Rohlman is the Associate Dean for Research in the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health. She is also the Director of the Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest. As one of our policy fellows at the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy, Rohlman is recommending policy changes to address mental health in the workplace.

Work is beneficial for mental health, providing meaning and purpose, a sense of accomplishment, self-efficacy and self-esteem, and it also provides social interactions. However, aspects of work can also negatively impact mental health. Behavioral health, which includes mental illness, substance use disorders and work-related stress, can lead to high turnover, lost productivity, and lower employee engagement. In addition, there is often a reluctance to discuss mental health issues in the workplace. This stigma can negatively impact worker well-being. When addressing mental health in the workplace it is important to move beyond individual solutions (e.g., wellness programs) to address how the organization of work can impact health. Workplace policies can be used to improve employees’ mental health and provide a plan for action.

As part of the fellowship, Rohlman identified multiple opportunities to tackle the stigma and increase awareness of mental health. This included expanding a suicide prevention campaign for the construction industry, developed by the Associated General Contractors of Missouri, to address all workplace mental health. The rebranded campaign and materials have been translated into Spanish and disseminated to over 2000 recipients. The campaign was also adopted and distributed by the Midwest Labors (LiUNA) in fall of 2022. Mental health has also been incorporated into leadership training provided by the Master Builder’s of Iowa.

An Alliance Agreement was established with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Federal Region VII and Iowa OSHA to address behavioral health. The objectives are to share information on OSHA initiatives addressing mental health and substance use, provide information on workplace policies, and raise awareness promoting behavioral health in the workplace. Between 2020 and 2022, Rohlman delivered over 40 presentations and lectures to multiple audiences locally and nationally on this topic.

“The work you do is very important to the American workforce, and we believe that OSHA’s ability to support your mission is an excellent way to reach out to more employees and employers on the topic of whole worker health and specifically mental health issues. We are thrilled about the Healthier Workforce Center Alliance that came to fruition earlier this year. Region VII is honored to work with an organization that does such great work.”

Billie A. Kizer, MPH, CSP Regional Administrator, Region VII
Workplace Mental Health Policy Brief 2022.10.04 thumbnail

Policy Brief

MENTAL HEALTH Workplace Programs, Practices and Policies

In collaboration with the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy, Rohlman hosted a virtual workshop, Mental Health Policies in the Workplace, where participants discussed existing workplace programs and activities to develop recommendations for workplace mental health policies. Small groups shared stories and examples of mental health and substance use in their workplaces and how to integrate and effectively address mental health in the workplace. This feedback was the foundation for a policy brief describing programs, practices and policies addressing mental health in the workplace .

“This was our first suicide prevention campaign. In the past, items were passed out at specific job sites that had suffered from a subcontractor having an off the job suicide. This year we created “packets” for each employee to use personally or professionally, as well as each of our job sites received larger “packets”. Since we are a Construction Manager/GC, we do not have any laborers on our workforce, but we hire companies that are and manage them. We want to make sure everyone who comes on our job site to work, that we are here for them for anything they may need. A slide has been added to our safety orientations for each job site as well, letting each contractor who works on any of our job sites that we are here to support them.”

Safety Manager

Watch the Webinar: Mental Health Policies in the Workplace

Mental Health Policies in the Workplace

Mental Health Policies in the Workplace

Feb. 11, 2001

An important component of worker well-being is mental health. Workplace policies are the first step for an employer to begin addressing mental health. In addition, workplace guidelines can be used to improve employees’ mental health and provide a plan for action. In this webinar learn ways for employers to implement programs and policies that lead to a healthier workplace for employees at all levels of an organization.