• Mental ill-health costing employers £42bn a year

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  • 26 Oct 2017
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Despite 300,000 people losing their jobs each year because of mental health problems, report warns the subject remains taboo at work

Mental ill-health is costing employers as much as £42bn – and the wider economy up to £99bn – a year, a government-backed report has found.

However, the Stevenson/Farmer review – which was published today and carried out by former HBOS chairman and mental health campaigner Lord Dennis Stevenson, and the chief executive of charity Mind, Paul Farmer, at the request of the prime minister – also revealed that every £1 a business ploughed into supporting mental health at work generated a return of up to £9.

The review, known as the Thriving at work report, warned that 300,000 people lose their job every year because of long-term mental health problems. Figures cited in the report also revealed that around 15 per cent of people currently at work have symptoms of existing mental health problems.

“We found that, in many workplaces, mental health is still a taboo subject and that opportunities are missed to prevent poor mental health and ensure employees who may be struggling get the support they need,” said Farmer. “In many instances employers simply don’t understand the crucial role they can play, or know where to go for advice and support.”

In light of their findings, the review’s authors are urging employers to adopt six core mental health strategies, including producing a mental health at work plan, working to develop mental health awareness among employees, and making sure they are providing their employees with good working conditions.

They are also calling for the government to support their suggestions and to make sure the NHS continues to provide access to mental health services and treatment while still allowing people to stay in employment.

“We need the right leadership among employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and a mandate from policymakers to deliver our ambitious but achievable plan,” said Stevenson. “It’s time for every employer to recognise their responsibilities and affect change, so that the UK becomes a world leader in workplace wellbeing for all staff and in supporting people with mental health problems to thrive at work.”

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, noted that the report made it clear that “the UK is facing a greater challenge than expected when it comes to mental health in the workplace”.

“Mental health can still be hard for us to talk about, and we need to focus on improving the situation at a societal and workplace level,” Suff said. “This report highlights the vital role that employers should play in tackling the persistent stigma and promoting inclusive workplaces.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, added: “The report rightly highlights the importance of proactive employment practice and of promoting mental health awareness in the workplace. Employers in the NHS will welcome the clear and evidence-based recommendations and standards, which reinforce the work we have been undertaking as the nation's largest employer, but also challenge us to do much more.”

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  • 'If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene - if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage - if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably in comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here... rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimism, mental health and contentment.'

    - Psychiatrist J. T. Fisher