Wednesday 10 October 2018 10:23 am

Mental health is an issue that UK companies can't afford to ignore


Look under the bonnet of any thriving company, and beyond a solid business plan and clear strategy, you will certainly find that the skill, commitment and talent of its people are the engine driving its success.

The Mental Health Foundation found that the average person in Britain says “I’m fine” at least 14 times a day, but any business or family can suddenly find a staff member or family member who is struggling.

Almost one in three people will be struck by mental health problems while in employment, and it is the single largest cause of disability in the UK.

Read more: Designing cities in mental health friendly way could add £15bn to economy

The economic and social cost of mental health problems in the UK amounts to more than £100bn every year. It is the number one cause of sickness absence, with around 70m work days lost.

More importantly, no statistic can ever begin to capture the devastating and isolating impact on those people affected by mental health issues, and on their families and friends.

As the World Health Organisation says, “there is no health without mental health” – it is just as fundamental to our wellbeing as any physical illness.

This is why today, on World Mental Health Day, I believe that it’s the perfect time to promote mental health awareness in the workplace, and encourage colleagues to look out for each other.

I am proud that my own department runs mental health and well-being events, and is growing our pool of mental health first aiders, developing a culture where people can speak openly about their mental health problems.

We are working hand-in-hand with business, inventors, and innovators to address these challenges and opportunities facing our economy and society.

As part of the government’s biggest increase in research and development spending, we announced last month the creation of eight new Mental Health Networks to bring together researchers from health to the humanities, to work collaboratively with charities and people who have experience of mental health issues.

Together, they will pool their knowledge to help improve mental health outcomes.

The Networks will further our understanding of the causes, development and treatments of a wide range of mental health issues, and support our ambition to make Britain the best place in the world to develop treatments to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives, giving us all more opportunities to fulfil our ambitions in life.

The good mental health of employees is not only socially responsible, but makes business sense too.

By tackling mental health stigma and helping people understand that mental health belongs to everybody, employers will see productivity, staff retention, and sickness rates improve – it is an issue that businesses can’t afford to ignore.

  • World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. For more information click here.

Read more: Stress in the City: Half of UK workplaces report mental health problems