Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 2:45 pm, 17th January 2019

I should like to thank all the contributors to the debate. It has been marked by a lot of enthusiasm and passionate advocacy in support of improved mental health. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Luciana Berger, Norman Lamb and my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer for securing the debate and for bringing their characteristic ambitious agendas into play, alongside their well-informed and passionate advocacy on behalf of them. It can often be challenging to respond to all three of those Members, but on this occasion I have really enjoyed listening to their contributions and I agreed with much of what they said.

We all share the same objective, which is to secure support as early as possible for people who are suffering mental ill health and, more specifically, to enable more people with mental ill health to stay in work. That is good for their health—as long as it is good work and they are well supported—but it is also good for the economy when more people are encouraged to work. That was clearly illustrated by the figures cited by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree for those receiving care from Mersey Care, which bring into stark relief the size of the challenge. They show that only 3% of those patients are in work, which is something we should all reflect on. It underlines the importance of ensuring that we get better at supporting people who are suffering mental health challenges and at encouraging them into work.

I am pleased to be joined on the Front Bench by the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, my hon. Friend Sarah Newton. She is also responsible for the Health and Safety Executive, which obviously has a big role to play in this agenda. She has been listening carefully to all Members’ contributions today. She and I are united in an objective to ensure that we keep more people with all kinds of disability in work, and that we get those who are currently excluded from the workforce into it. We have a wide package of measures that we are taking forward in that regard, some of which have been referred to today.

The Government are committed to building a country that works for everyone, and that must include ensuring that disabled people and people with mental health conditions can go as far as their talents can take them. Too many people with a mental health condition are unable to do that, and that is a burning injustice that must be tackled. As the right hon. Member for North Norfolk pointed out, people who are unemployed for more than 12 weeks are between four and 10 times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. That statistic illustrates why it is good for society, as well as for the individual, that we tackle this issue. The good news is that staying in or returning to work after a period of mental ill health really does aid mental health recovery. It really does make perfect sense.