Established in 2002, the Institute of Stress Medicine (ISM) was initially a co-operation between Region Västra Götaland and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency operating in the county of Västra Götaland. The Government provided initial funding for ISM, its research and knowledge dissemination activities. In 2008 Region Västra Götaland assumed overall responsibility for the Institute, and ISM became a part of the regional organisation.
ISM conducts research and spreads knowledge on stress and stress-related illnesses. The purpose of these activities is to decrease the occurrence of stress-related illnesses and place Region Västra Götaland in the forefront in terms of health-promoting workplaces and the treatment of stress-related illnesses. The Institute’s assignments are to:
- Increase knowledge on stress-related illnesses and the prevention and treatment of these diseases.
- Contribute to the creation of the conditions necessary for Region Västra Götaland to be regarded as exemplary in terms of work conditions for their staff members and the establishment of health-promoting workplaces.
- Spread knowledge that will lead to the reduction of stress-related illnesses in Sweden.
ISM has its own political steering-group. Representatives from trade unions also take part in its meetings. ISM’s managing director has overall responsibility for the Institute.
Research is interdisciplinary and conducted in the form of co-operative projects and in-house projects.
Research is divided into three areas:
1. The biological effect of stress – this research aims to study biological stress indicators and physiological mechanisms.
2. Clinical evaluation and treatment – this research aims to increase awareness of stress-related mental disorders, exhaustion disorder in particular. Diagnostics, prognostic factors, treatment and return to work are in focus in these studies.
3. Prevention and the promotion of health – this research focuses on leadership, communication, teamwork, psychosocial working environments and health. The research aims to increase knowledge and awareness of the connection between job-related stress exposure, stress reactions, and the risk of developing stress-related illnesses. Mixed methods are used at individual, group, and organisational levels.
In order to conduct clinical research activities ISM has an outpatient service for persons with suspected stress-related exhaustion disorder, referred from other health care providers e.g. primary care and occupational health services (OHS). Diagnostic procedures, multimodal treatment, rehabilitation and follow-up are offered depending on the condition and on-going research projects. Clinical guidelines are developed in co-operation with other medical specialities and new methods and instruments are continually being tested and evaluated.
Prevention and health promotion
Developing and evaluating strategies, methods and tools for effective prevention and workplace health promotion is performed in partnership with managers, employee representatives, OHS and other stakeholders, especially at workplaces within Region Västra Götaland. Important aims are to improve the systematic work environment work and the communication between different professional groups and between management levels, as well as to improve organisational structures and management.
ISM has a mission to bridge the gap between research and practice within its field. To achieve this ISM co-operate with universities and other research institutions on the one hand, and build networks with workplaces within Västra Götaland and with employer and employee organisations, also on the national level. Best available knowledge regarding prevention, diagnosis and treatment of stress-related illnesses is transferred to different target groups in a variety of ways. All published material, research papers as well as pedagogic summaries and tools, are made available on the ISM website. Different forms and arenas for dialogue with e.g. managers, human resource professionals and employee representatives are used to achieve mutual learning and find better ways to deal with stress and promote health in the workplaces.