Against the backdrop of an alarming worldwide rise in mental health problems in the workplace (WHO, 2005), coupled with a disturbing proportion of reported professional unfitness resulting from depression (see for Canada: Dewa, McDaid and Sultan-Taïeb, 2011; and for Europe: the IDEA survey, produced by the European Depression Association-EDA), a clear orientation of research and public health policies toward prevention of occupational risks, including psychosocial risks in the workplace (e.g., the Commissions of the European Communities, 2008) has been observed. In this context, researchers emphasize the importance of establishing preventive measures against mental disorders at work by developing conditions favourable to quality of life in the workplace (risk-anticipating primary preventive measures, or secondary preventive measures designed to improve the situation, or even tertiary measures with “restorative” care). However, in this process little research has been done into the issue of reintegrating persons who have not benefited promptly enough from these preventive measures, and have reported mental health problems obliging them to break with the working world. Besides the fact that France estimates the cost of care for mental disability at 14 billion euros (IGAS Report, 2011), there is also the matter of the occupational “non-inclusion” of these persons and their future.
The literature on the occupational integration of the mentally disabled includes reports of resistance to the employment of these persons occurring in France (e.g., according to the survey by IMS-Entreprendre Pour La Cité, Al Adlouni, Chevalier, Dauvergne, Lauvergne, Plégat, de Reboul and Scharnitzky, 2011) and elsewhere, particularly because of employer prejudice (Corbière et al., 2012). This resistance persists in spite of legal obligations in this regard (e.g., in France, the Law of February 11, 2005 on Equal Rights and Opportunities). Studies have been conducted in Canada on the subject, particularly in regard to the rehabilitation of the mentally disabled in the workplace environment. In France, research has remained focused on supporting the mentally disabled in occupational reintegration in protected environments (such as social enterprises). Generally speaking, there has been limited focus on organizations and their stakeholders (managers, colleagues, union representatives) and little knowledge exists on whether their attitudes facilitate or hinder the process of accessing and staying in employment in ordinary workplace environments.
These elements, bringing together the psychological and legal aspects of the issue, are conducive to the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach (occupational and organizational psychology, labour law and social protection law) for addressing this issue. Canada’s progress on these matters has encouraged the pursuit of collaborative and comparative research. The research project thus involves the study of contexts that are favourable or unfavourable to increased participation in professional life by those who have broken away from the workplace environment after reporting problems with depression. Attitudes and organizational practices are studied by questioning employers and trade union actors. A report on current standards, initiatives and guidelines on the subject at international level is also planned.