Mental Health: Role of Social Security System and Employers

Yesterday NHS Digital published the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, which showed that young women are the highest risk group in England, with one in five women reporting a common mental disorder such as anxiety and depression in 2014, compared with one in eight men.

The proportion of the overall population with a common mental disorder has risen steadily since the survey was first conducted, in 1993. That has gone from 6.9% of 16- to 64-year-olds in 1993 to 7.9% in 2000, then to 8.5% in 2007 and now to 9.3%

These are clearly worrying figures. We have seen a steady increase in people experiencing mental health symptoms with a widening gender gap in self harm and a rise in people having suicidal thoughts.

The survey shows just how much more there is to do to improve awareness, accessibility and the integration of mental health services. As a society we also need to speak much more openly on the matter of mental ill health without people feeling stigmatised.

People with mental health conditions in receipt of social security are repeatedly subject to punitive sanctions and wrongly assessed as fit for work. The system must instead support people with mental health conditions and work with employers and the NHS to ensure people with mental ill health have the flexibility and treatment they need to stay in work.

We need better occupational health support for more small businesses which should promote early intervention and make employees aware of the help available locally. The Government should work with organisations like the CBI, the FSB and trade unions to promote the role of good employers in improving and maintaining the workforce’s mental health.

The Work Capability Assessment process, revised by this Government, is not only unfit for purpose, there is growing evidence of the harm it is doing. These assessments need to be scrapped; Labour want to see a holistic, person-centred approach, not the dehumanising, harmful, inefficient process we have now.

The results of this survey are appalling and it’s time we had action from the Government and not just words.

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