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Thriving at work?

Unite demands gov’t action on mental health
Ryan Fletcher, Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Around 300,000 with people long-term mental health problems are forced to leave work every year, a shocking new report has found.



Unite welcomed the ‘Thriving at Work’ report, which makes a number of recommendations on how business and government can tackle mental ill-health in the workplace, but stepped up calls for the Tories to reverse cuts in mental health services.



As well as costing tens of thousands of people their jobs each year, mental illness annually costs the UK economy up to £99bn, the government commissioned report said.



Paul Farmer, co-author of the report and chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said the issue is often a taboo subject at work.



He said, “Opportunities are missed to prevent poor mental health and ensure that employees who may be struggling get the support they need.



“In many instances employers simply don’t understand the crucial role they can play, or know where to go for advice and support.”



‘Thriving at Work” makes 40 recommendations on how employers and government can assist staff suffering from mental illness to keep their jobs, including suggestions for new online and digital tools to help people cope or seek treatment.



Firms are also being urged to add employee mental health sections to their annual reports. Just 11 per cent of companies currently include one, the report said.



But despite the government welcoming the report and the prime minister calling on the civil service and the NHS to accept its findings, there has been no indication that additional resources will be made available to tackle the challenges the report has uncovered.



Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “The findings of the ‘Thriving at Work’ report should be fully welcomed as it demonstrates the scale of the mental health challenge facing the UK.



“It is all very well the government welcoming the report but ministers need to invest in mental health services which have been cut to the bone since 2010.”



Unite, which embraces the Mental Health Nurses Association (MHNA), has previously warned that staff are at risk of burn out after detentions under the Mental Health Act increased by 26 per cent between 2012/13 to 2015/16.



The challenge to the service has been made even greater as since 2010 the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,610 nurses – a 15 per cent decrease.



In July, the government announced plans to increase the number of extra crisis care nurses by 4,600, however these posts will not fully replace the number of jobs that have been lost, nor do they take into account the increase in the population.



A recent survey of applied psychologists, who are represented by Unite and treat mental health sufferers through therapy, found that 76 per cent reported frequent staff shortages and 82 per cent reported that their workload had increased in the last year.



Dave Munday, lead professional officer for mental health at Unite, said, “Unless action is taken to reduce workloads and the public sector pay cap is lifted, dedicated and skilled mental health professionals will continue to vote with their feet and leave the NHS. This will only make the deepening mental health crisis worse.



“Mental health staff are continually papering over the cracks and holding the service together but such unselfish commitment can only last so long, staff are at risk of burn out and making themselves ill.”




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