Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 1:54 pm, 17th January 2019

That is an incredibly helpful intervention. I totally agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is about getting the whole culture in the workplace right on flexible working, understanding that parents sometimes have responsibilities to their children and carers have responsibility for an elderly loved one. Not working ludicrous hours of the day and night is also incredibly important. How we achieve the legislative change is very important. It is vital that we raise awareness through mental health first aid, but we also need a fundamental focus on the prevention of mental ill health in the workplace.

In the remaining minutes, I want to focus on some of the things we did in the west midlands. After I was chucked out of the Department of Health by the electorate in 2015, I was asked to chair a commission on mental health in the west midlands. Our whole focus was on how to prevent mental ill health and take a more public mental health approach. We focused particularly on the workplace. We first focused on how to get people who had experienced mental ill health and had been out of work—often for years and years—back into work. Work is actually good for people. Meaningful work, where we gain a sense of dignity and self-respect, is really important. We are undertaking—with £8.5 million of Government support, I should say—a randomised control trial, applying a strong evidence-based approach called individual placement and support. We give people intensive support to get them ready for employment, get them into a proper job and then support them in that job. We are looking at how we can apply that in primary care, so we capture people earlier, and give them access to someone who can train them and support them for employment. We want to change the mind set of GPs, so they are not just thinking about the sickness of their patient but how they can help them to recover and get back into work—that is critical.

I hope that as a result of the randomised control trial, we will be able to learn lessons which we can then apply across the country. If we can get lots of people with severe and enduring mental ill health back into work, we will achieve something very significant. Sadly, at the moment this extraordinarily strong, evidence-based approach is the exception rather than the rule. Most people across the country do not get access to it. The Government have made a commitment to double the numbers, but that is still a very small proportion of the total. It needs to be expanded rapidly.