The government must take the lead in tackling mental health related sickness absence and lost productivity, an influential commission argues.
The CentreForum Mental Health Commission, which is chaired by former mental health minister Paul Burstow MP, recommended that all public sector enterprises become mental health friendly employers along with all other organisations with more than 500 employees.
It said this would become a key way to tackle the estimated £23.5bn cost of absence and lost productivity and suggested using the Mindful Employer framework or Mind's Workplace Wellbeing programme would be a suitable approach.
"A mark of a good employer should be one who makes it obvious that people with a mental health problem can disclose and talk about it without prejudice. By 2020, 90% of these organisations should meet these requirements," the Pursuit of happiness report said.
It also urged government to increase the proportion of NHS spending on mental health by 1% each year over the next 10 years, equivalent to around £1bn per annum.
The 12 month study on the state of wellbeing in England identified five key priorities between now and 2020.
It calls on policymakers to:
- Establish the mental wellbeing of the nation or the "pursuit of happiness" as a clear and measurable goal of government
- Roll out a National Wellbeing Programme to promote mutual support, self-care and recovery, and reduce the crippling stigma that too often goes hand in hand with mental ill health
- Prioritise investment in the mental health of children and young people right from conception
- Make places of work mental health friendly with government leading the way as an employer
- Better equip primary care to identify and treat mental health problems, closing the treatment gap that leaves one in four of the adult population needlessly suffering from depression and anxiety and 1-2% experiencing a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.
Chair of the CentreForum Mental Health Commission Paul Burstow MP said: "Failure to promote good mental health not only ruins lives, it costs the economy £105bn every year.
"There is no single simple change that will deliver better mental health, but making governments measure and value wellbeing as much as GDP would be an important step in the right direction.
"We then need bold action across the board so that we can see national wellbeing improving. We know what works in the workplace, in schools, in health services. Starving mental health services of investment is a massive false economy, building up more costs to the NHS, to social care, to welfare, to businesses and the economy.
"We need to promote good mental health from the earliest opportunity, and make sure that schools, workplaces and the communities that we all live in are supporting us to be mentally well. The cost of doing nothing or simply settling for gradual change runs to billions of pounds, but the real cost is measured in human misery, misery for want of determination to act on the evidence."
Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb MP added: "I want to build a fairer society where mental healthcare is valued as much as physical healthcare. That's why we've invested over £450m in improving access to psychological therapies and we've launched a national agreement to improve crisis care.
"This report highlights crucial principles that we need to adopt at a local and national level to improve mental healthcare and we will consider all its recommendations carefully. The Commission is doing valuable work to increase the momentum on achieving better mental health for everyone."
‘Employers can take action now’
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