Around 70m working days were lost last year because of mental health and England’s chief medical officer says the NHS and employers need to do more to help support sufferers at work.
Stress and depression should be treated in the same way as physical health, said Professor Dame Sally Davies, who is calling for a radical rethink in the way it is treated. She has called for funding for these services to be protected, amid warnings that they are being cut, and suggested implementing waiting time targets for treatment.
Dame Sally said the number of working days lost due to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24 per cent since 2009, costing an estimated £100bn and that the number lost due to serious mental illness has doubled.
It is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy Dame Sally
Providing a supportive working environment for people with mental health illnesses – for example, allowing more flexible working hours, or part-time working post-illness – could be a key way to prevent sufferers from having to take time off work, she added. An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of people with common mental health disorders were in full time work.
In her annual report on the mental health of people in England, Dame Sally also said it was striking that three quarters of people with diagnosable mental illness have no treatment at all.
“The costs of mental illness to the economy are astounding,” she said. “Through this report, I urge commissioners and decision-makers to treat mental health more like physical health.
“The World Health Organisation model of mental health promotion, mental illness prevention and treatment and rehabilitation should be adopted in public mental health in England.
“Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time. One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60 to 70 per cent of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy.”
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The treatment gap for people with mental health problems can no longer be ignored. Not only are people with mental health problems in need of better support for their mental health conditions, but there is an unacceptable and preventable level of correlation with physical ill health.”