Helping workers with ‘common mental disorders’ should be high on health agenda

Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has highlighted a key issue for the health service to tackle nationally in her latest annual report – calling for better support for those suffering from mental health issues.

With between 60-70 per cent of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety currently in work, Dame Sally has identified the amount of days off work currently taken by this section of people as having a major detrimental effect on the UK economy.

Figures show there has been a 24 per cent increase in the number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety since 2009.

And now she has called for more to be done to help people battling mental illness to remain in work, speeding up care through the health system.

Her report certainly made interesting reading, both to the business and health sectors, claiming mental health issues are leading to 70 million working days being lost in the UK each year, a total cost in excess of £100bn last year.

“The costs of mental illness to the economy are astounding,” she concluded.

“One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60-70 per cent of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy.

“Through this report, I urge commissioners and decision-makers to treat mental health more like physical health.  Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time.”

The report has certainly brought a positive response, and thrown the issue into the national spotlight.

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, welcomed the “bold report”, saying it has made an “important contribution to a long overdue national debate.”

And Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing added that the treatment gap for people with mental health problems can no longer be ignored.

“Not only are people with mental health problems in need of better support for their mental health conditions, but there is an unacceptable and preventable level of correlation with physical ill health,” he said.

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