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Effectiveness of training workplace managers to understand and support the mental health needs of employees: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Aimée Gayed1,
  2. Josie S Milligan-Saville1,2,
  3. Jennifer Nicholas1,
  4. Bridget T Bryan1,2,
  5. Anthony D LaMontagne3,4,
  6. Allison Milner4,
  7. Ira Madan5,6,
  8. Rafael A Calvo7,
  9. Helen Christensen1,2,
  10. Arnstein Mykletun1,8,9,10,11,
  11. Nicholas Glozier12,
  12. Samuel B Harvey1,2
  1. 1School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Black Dog Institute, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Centre for Population Health Research, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Occupational Health Department, The Education Centre, St Thomas’ Hospital, London, UK
  6. 6Department of Population Health Sciences, King’s College London, London, UK
  7. 7School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  8. 8Department of Mental Health and Suicide, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
  9. 9Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
  10. 10Centre for Work and Mental Health, Nordland Hospital Trust, Bodø, Norway
  11. 11Centre for Research and Education in Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway
  12. 12Brain and Mind Centre, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Aimée Gayed, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; a.gayed{at}


Managers are in an influential position to make decisions that can impact on the mental health and well-being of their employees. As a result, there is an increasing trend for organisations to provide managers with training in how to reduce work-based mental health risk factors for their employees. A systematic search of the literature was conducted to identify workplace interventions for managers with an emphasis on the mental health of employees reporting directing to them. A meta-analysis was performed to calculate pooled effect sizes using the random effects model for both manager and employee outcomes. Ten controlled trials were identified as relevant for this review. Outcomes evaluating managers’ mental health knowledge (standardised mean difference (SMD)=0.73; 95% CI 0.43 to 1.03; p<0.001), non-stigmatising attitudes towards mental health (SMD=0.36; 95% CI 0.18 to 0.53; p<0.001) and improving behaviour in supporting employees experiencing mental health problems (SMD=0.59; 95% CI 0.14 to 1.03; p=0.01) were found to have significant pooled effect sizes favouring the intervention. A significant pooled effect was not found for the small number of studies evaluating psychological symptoms in employees (p=0.28). Our meta-analysis indicates that training managers in workplace mental health can improve their knowledge, attitudes and self-reported behaviour in supporting employees experiencing mental health problems. At present, any findings regarding the impact of manager training on levels of psychological distress among employees remain preliminary as only a very limited amount of research evaluating employee outcomes is available. Our review suggests that in order to understand the effectiveness of manager training on employees, an increase in collection of employee level data is required.

  • mental health
  • occupational health practice

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  • Contributors AG and SBH conceptualised and designed the study. AG, JSMS and SBH developed the methodology. AG conducted the searches. AG, JSMS, JN, BTB and SBH screened the titles, abstracts and articles. AG, JSMS, JN and SBH conducted the quality assessment. AG and JSMS conducted data extraction. AG and SBH wrote the first draft of the paper. All coauthors contributed to the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by beyondblue with donations from the Movember Foundation (Project Code: LK: 7138). Additional funding was provided by NSW Health and iCare NSW.

  • Disclaimer The funders of the study had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation or writing of the report.

  • Competing interests HC and SBH are employed by the Black Dog Institute which provides manager training to workplaces.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.