Ergoterapi og psykisk helsearbeid i bedriftshelsetjenesten En kvalitativ studie om ergoterapeuters erfaringer med å bistå arbeidstakere som opplever psykiske helseproblemer
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Background People experiencing mental health issues constitutes a large part of those falling out of or being in danger of falling out of working life. Both health and welfare policies and research states the importance of supporting people experiencing mental health problems in their working role. Work can be a resource in life and most people benefit from being able to stay in the workforce. The objective of OHS is both prevention and following up absence and the services have competence in both health and work related issues. Occupational therapy has a historical tradition within mental health care, with core competences in the importance of facilitating participation and social inclusion and in meaningful activities, both as a goal and as means to promote good health. There is little research in how OHS works with mental health issues and how occupational therapy can contribute. Aim of study: The purpose of the study is to explore how occupational therapists in OHS assist employees who experience mental health problems, describing and exploring the therapists’ experiences. “What experiences do occupational therapists in the Occupational Health Services have in assisting employees who experience mental health problems?” The research questions are: 1) How does the occupational therapist in Occupational Health Services cooperate with the employee experiencing mental health problems? 2) What factors do the occupational therapists experience as important for persons’ ability to remain within the workforce despite mental health problems? Methodology The study is descriptive and explorative and holds a phenomenological and hermeneutical position. Individual qualitative research interviews are used in the study to gather descriptive and in depth data, through subjective perspectives and experiences. Findings The findings in the study are described with four main themes; invitation to conversations, challenges in several areas, the meaning of experiencing one selves as valuable and contributing and the occupational therapists’ special contributions. The findings reveal that the occupational therapists mainly contributes with supportive conversations and workplace assessments. They experience that employees who struggle with mental health problems have the need for having available someone to talk to on the most accessible level. It is important to see the person as a whole individual and avoid seperating the employee from the private person. It seems like there is still a taboo to talk about mental health problems and that the employees themselves not always want to be open about their challenges. Support and understanding from the management at their workplace is important for work participation. This requires increased knowledge and understanding about mental health. Conclusion Occupational therapists in OHS has expertise and a historical tradition in working in this field. Occupational therapy is a subject that informants experience can be used in the field in interdisciplinary teams with other professionals. The activity perspective, doing function assessments and focus on the employees resources and opportunities are highlighted. OHS can, by developing their services, become an important support when employees experience mental health problems. It would be advantage for both the occupational therapists professional development and for the OHS with more tailored research in how OHS can assist in mental health related work and how the occupational therapist can contriubute specifically.