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A broken mind is no less a medical condition than a broken leg. UK companies agree.

Psychiatrists have called for physical and mental health to be regarded and treated with the same importance and attitudes for decades. In the last five years, political pledges and calls for ‘parity of esteem’ have become the norm. But stigma that leads to denial and hiding of mental illness persists.

On November 18th 2018, 50 top UK company directors entered the debate on the side of mental illness making prime time news headlines despite the news being dominated by BREXIT concerns. How they did this was by signing a petition to the Prime Minister calling for her to honour her promise of two years ago and take action that will mean in workplaces, people with mental ill health will be handled as well as those with physical ill health. That would be achieved through trained managers and changes in Health and Safety Law. Clearly, those directors have looked at the financial impact of mental ill health in the workplace and conclude that by improving early intervention and support, this impact can be lessened. Among the directors is Lord Alan Sugar. The companies include Royal Mail, the Ford motor company, Thames Water and WH Smith.

So what do the statistics say about mental health in the workplace? In covering the story, BBC News collects the following reports:

  • An October 2017 government-commissioned review put the cost to the economy of mental illness at work at between £74 billion and £99 billion a year.
  •  A September 2018 survey report by MIND, which involved 44,000 respondents, found that poor mental health affects half of all employees, and that 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem.
  •  A 2018 poll of 700 directors, by the Institute of Directors found less than one in five firms offered mental health training for managers.

From Ellern Mede’s perspective, we know that young people, fighting hard in what is often a long and fragile journey of recovery from eating disorders as they reach 18, can find themselves in pressurised study or work environments. For universities, colleges and workplaces to have health and safety processes that recognise mental health conditions and flexibility to encourage openness, treatment and provide support would give people a much better chance of good health and of achieving their potential.

If your workplace needs guidance on how to improve we recommend this online resource, https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/