What is Psychological Health & Safety?

September 20, 2023
At the simplest level, Psychological Health & Safety means that you, as a business, take a proactive, risk management approach to work-related mental health.

Meaning, you take active steps to identify what could foreseeably cause your employees psychological harm, in their work, in their relationships and the environment at work, and put appropriate measures in place that are tailored to those specific hazards.

For this reason, traditional mental health strategies that focus primarily on health promotion, resilience building, stress management, and counselling services are no longer enough.

It's a simple concept at its core, but takes an open-mindedness, and a willingness to move beyond traditional approaches, for any real progress to be made. We all tend to default to what is familiar, or what we see other people doing (for all our wonderful diversity, we are inherently social creatures after all). This is especially true when we are under pressure, and when time and other resources feel scarce. This is counter-productive over time though, as it keeps us stuck in the same closed, reactive loops. Leaders need to recognise, and embrace, the fact that employee wellbeing and business success are parts of the same thing, rather than at odds with each other. A reluctance to invest now, because it’s new and unfamiliar or somehow feels like a ‘nice to have’, can cost so much more in the long run – in attrition, high turnover, absence and in more extreme cases legal costs and significant damage to reputation. There is evidence all around us, particularly in the media, of companies starting to learn this the hard way.

That all sounds a bit negative though, so let’s build positively on where we find ourselves. I do see resistance, for many reasons including those above, but

I also see a growing appetite for change and frustration with the ‘status quo’, particularly with the continued lack of measurable progress in tackling the ‘same old’ challenges around stress, burnout, ‘presenteeism’, low job satisfaction, poor relationships, and even cumulative trauma in certain sectors.

I work with clients across many industries, and diverse regions and cultures, and I now see both a huge appetite for change and a strong desire for the right guidance towards designing approaches that really do work, for everyone, in practice.

One simple way that I make a start to help wellbeing leaders map out what they have in place (and there’s always a lot of good stuff to work with already), and what they need to add or change towards a truly proactive and risk-based approach, is using my ‘4Ps’ framework © of psychological health and safety:

In most cases, once current resources and interventions for mental health are mapped onto this framework, businesses can see that their mental health strategy populates only the first and last of the categories. The same is never so for physical health, safety and wellbeing, largely because risk management is so well legislated and regulated. This means that there is also a great deal of support and guidance towards getting it right.

When it comes to psychological risk management, there are many hurdles to navigate in changing attitudes, beliefs and perspectives in how it could or should be done. I frequently hear things like; “but it’s not possible to assess and manage psychological risk like we do physical ones”, or “each individual person is too different”, or “we do take a proactive approach, by offering resilience building”. All of these have some truth or merit to them, but to stay wedded too closely inhibits learning and change. The field is new, but the evidence and guidance are growing rapidly. See for example the new International Safety Standard for Psychological Health & Safety at Work, ISO45003, and the new joint guidelines from the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization [1,2].

We can expect to see ISO45003 influence national legislation, ensuring that companies are required to implement a psychological health & safety approach.

I find that once businesses create the opportunity, with the right support, to explore and map out the hazards and the risks that are relevant in their context, it becomes so much easier to choose effective, evidence-based resources and interventions. If this is not done, it continues to be a ‘best guess’ approach to how to avoid and reduce psychological harm and ill health at work. Or, to stick with the seductive belief that the only thing that can be done is to have a good counselling service available and a few Mental Health First Aiders.

Such interventions can be drawn from a range of sources. They usually do include health benefits and learning & development opportunities, but increasingly they draw on new and emerging technologies, including AI. Those who feel resistant to the latter usually recognise the benefits once they witness how they can support and enhance ‘person-centred’ approaches, rather than replacing them (that included me, by the way!).

For example, exciting solutions such as that developed by the Lua Health team, which uses AI for early identification of mental health issues, with effective signposting to resources for a diverse range of challenges and needs, can play a significant role in reducing the time and costs of managing problems once they have become more severe

It's an exciting time for workplace health and wellbeing, especially mental wellbeing, as a greater diversity of expertise is pooled towards a common goal. I am delighted to be making so many new connections with, and to be challenged in my thinking by, people who know things I don’t. I’m excited about where we can collectively go from here.

This content was written and is copyrighted by © Jacqui Wilmshurst. You can find out more about Jacqui's work at and online

About Lua Health

Lua Health is an innovative AI approach to proactive wellness in the workplace. The technology doesn't treat wellness-related issues, as many others claim. Instead, Lua Health's technology is uniquely and accurately detecting issues relating to mental health and wellness, and providing a clear steer towards the most appropriate early intervention available, thus ensuring that the condition can get dealt with as it emerges and before it exacerbates.

This approach directly addresses the distress of this type of health issue for employees, and lowers the associated cost burden of absenteeism and attrition rates for caring employers.

The Lua Health team is working with a number of multinational partners presently, to validate the value proposition, and to help them and their workers reduce the negative impact of this growing problem. Lua Health is rooted in academic R&D. It is a spinout from the University of Galway in Ireland, lead by a cross-disciplinary team of psychologists, machine learning scientists and commercialisation experts.

If your interested in learning, you can reach out to the talk at


  1. ISO 45003:2021. Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks:
  2. ILO/WHO Joint Policy Brief on Mental Health at Work:

Written by: 

Jacqui Wilmshurst

Specialist in Wellbeing, Learning & Belonging

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