Today is World Mental Health Day. The annual event affords an opportunity to discuss mental health issues and consider how we can improve the help and support that is available for those who live with them.
According to the NHS, one in four people in the UK are affected by mental illness. Anxiety affects 5.9 per cent of the population; 4.4 per cent have experienced post traumatic stress disorder and 3.3 per cent suffer from depression.
As a nation, we are getting better with talking about mental health. The work of charities like MIND and the Mental Health Foundation has brought the issue to the forefront of political discourse and made it easier for those who are suffering to come forward and seek help.
But despite increasing demand, mental health services remain dramatically underfunded. Between 2010 and 2015, funding to NHS trust for mental health services fell by 8.25 per cent in real terms.
Vulnerable people of all ages are facing long waiting lists to get the support they need. Moreover, the pressures of modern life and a lack of community-based mental health support are cited as reasons behind an increasing amount of young people seeking help.
With two million more adults expected to suffer from mental health problems by 2030, this is a crisis that needs to be addressed by the Government urgently. But there are also things that we can do at an organisational level and as individuals to improve mental health and wellbeing.
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is mental health in the workplace. Many people wouldn’t think twice about taking time off work for a serious physical illness, but attitudes can be different when it comes to mental wellbeing.
Employers need to show the same understanding and compassion about mental illness as they would towards any other condition. This involves training managers to notice the signs of stress and anxiety in their employees; signposting them to the appropriate support services and giving them the time and flexibility to address their health issues.
At Derby City Council, we have an in-house wellbeing counselling service which can support our staff who are feeling stressed, anxious or struggling to cope. Our qualified professionals provide free, confidential and non-judgmental face-to-face counselling for employees, as well as practical therapies, tools and strategies to help them feel better.
There are many other good examples of mental health support in the workplace from across the public and private sector, but there are also cases where people feel they have been penalised or in the worst cases sacked after disclosing mental health issues to their employer. This needs to change.
Improving our mental health and wellbeing can start with something as simple as a conversation. Talking about the things that cause us stress and anxiety can help to alleviate the burden. Whether that’s at work or at home, nobody should have to suffer in silence.
That’s why this week we’ve been supporting World Mental Health Day by running Tea and Talk events across Derby. If you’d like an opportunity to find out more about the support that is available; talk about your own mental health concerns or would just like the chance to share a cup of tea and raise some money for charity, then please come along.
Councillor Martin Repton
Cabinet Member for Integrated Health and Care