Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:11 pm on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Wavertree 1:11 pm, 17th January 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for her important intervention. Of course, today we are talking about what happens in the workplace, but what happens with young people in places of education is equally critical. I sit on the Health and Social Care Committee, and we have interrogated the Government’s plans for the next generation and young people. There are plans in place to have a designated mental health senior lead in every school, and we should ensure that at least one person has that training. We could be doing better than that, but at least it is a start. I support the idea, and it is great to hear what is happening in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Let me be very clear that we are talking about a huge number of people affected in our country every single day—our friends, colleagues and workmates who surround us. There is, of course, a huge economic cost as well as a very significant human cost. The Centre for Mental Health estimates that people with mental health conditions staying at work longer than they should costs our economy over £15 billion every single year, and that people being absent from work because of mental ill health costs our economy £8 billion a year. These are not insignificant sums. I reiterate that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition are losing their jobs every single year because they find themselves in an acute state, have to leave work, are not supported and get to a critical state, rather than having experienced early intervention or prevention, which might have helped them in the first place.

The Health and Safety Executive says that 15.4 million working days were lost in the last year alone because of stress, depression and anxiety, and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy—I declare an interest, as I was recently appointed one of its vice-presidents— has calculated that stress is costing British businesses £1,000 per employee per year in sick pay and associated costs. That is very significant for the national economy, and for individual organisations and businesses. I do not think I need to set out any more statistics to evidence the fact that there is a clear need. Mental illness is having a significant impact on millions of workers across the country and costing our economy billions of pounds.