The development of mental health problems can often be addressed in the early stages

Blog 14.3.2022

When I started my career as a psychologist in adult psychiatry twenty years ago, I treated a lot of people with mental health problems, each with more severe and symptoms than the last. Many of them had suffered from their symptoms for a long time and spent years looking for help in either primary health care or occupational health care. There had been a lot of sick leaves and experiments with different medications. The majority of had their work ability seriously compromised or lost altogether.

Later on in my career in occupational health care, I received customers that had typically faced their problems for a shorter period of time, but their mental resources were not adequate for coping with the demands of work at the moment. Many of them also said that their problems and symptoms, such as burnout, depression and problems with their relationships had recurred in exactly the same way time after time even if the conditions, colleagues and supervisors of their workplace had changed several times. They said, for example, that they feel burnt out at work or have conflicts with their supervisor or spouse for the same reasons over and over again.

As a psychologist and later also as a psychotherapist, I have learned that through our early experiences, we write a sort of invisible manuscript that guides our lives. With it, we often find ourselves in very similar settings in our relationships or, for example, in similar roles in our work communities. Certain situations at work and in relationships evoke similar feelings in us over and over again. We live at the mercy of this recurring and sometimes painful manuscript, not knowing how to change it alone. It can sometimes start to weaken our mental health and cause psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety or exhaustion.

Psychotherapy is a form of treatment that has been developed to alleviate or eliminate such mental problems. It is based on a therapeutic discussion with a person trained as a psychotherapist. Different functional methods and exercises at home can also be used in the treatment. Psychotherapy often deals with a person's repeated experiences of suffering or trouble and difficult feelings, as well as possible previous difficult life experiences.

Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of mental health disorders in numerous scientific studies and, if targeted in a timely manner, it can prevent the development of more severe mental health disorders or help with symptoms that have already occurred even when performed for a short period of time. Correctly timed psychotherapeutic treatment is also very cost-effective. Savings are generated, for example, through reduced sick leave days, improved productivity at work and the prevention of retirement due to mental health problems.

Since the beginning of my career, I have wondered why we do not offer help to people for mental health challenges and problems in time? Why are problems and symptoms allowed to persist and worsen instead of tackling their root causes in their early stages, for example by helping people change their problematic ways of experiencing, feeling or acting in a timely manner through targeted psychotherapy?

How wonderful it is to be able to work with Mehiläinen's customer companies, occupational health care and hundreds of our psychotherapists and psychologists to do what I have dreamed of doing for twenty years. Occupational health care plays a key role in the early identification of problems and the provision of timely care. Mehiläinen’s experts in mental health provide incrementally advancing psychotherapeutic support and help, from Occupational health care sparring services to, for example, 20 appointments of short-term psychotherapy.

A statistically significant change in the patient's subjective well-being and experience of treatment outcomes as well as symptoms of depression was observed in Mehiläinen’s own measurements of short-term psychotherapy consisting of 10–20 appointments (Core-OM: n=86, p < 0.001; PHQ-9: n=87, p < 0.001).

The author of the blog post, Salla Myllys, is a PhD in psychology and an occupational psychologist and psychotherapist who works as the Chief Operating Officer of Mehiläinen's psychotherapy services.