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Mental health: It is time to act, say business leaders

One in four employees experience some form of mental ill-health, most commonly stress, anxiety or depression, and the effect on businesses and the wider economy is now being quantified.

National figures show that the annual cost to the UK economy in lost productivity, social benefit and healthcare is £70 billion. Days lost to the most common mental health issues now total 15 million  and 300,000 people leave their jobs each year because of mental health problems.

Dr Philip Smith, chair of Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, said: “These statistics are startling, they are not sustainable and something has to be done about it.”

He was speaking at the launch of MKBLP’s Mental Health in the Workplace campaign during a wider discussion on workplace wellbeing organised by Work Well MK.

MKBLP has been working with Milton Keynes Council’s public health department for 12 months on the campaign and has produced a guidebook explaining the challenge businesses face and directs employers to where they can get support and guidance to help their staff. Dr Smith said: “MKBLP has shown a great interest in how we might be able to help businesses to understand more their responsibilities to mental health and deal with the issues that arise from it. 

“We have put together a guide to help employers identify the issues, the importance and challenges of mental health. This is particularly important to small businesses who do not have the benefit of a large HR department and have to act on their own. The guide aims to help them in particular.”

The guide was launched at a Wellbeing in the Workplace forum, held at Entrepreneurial Spark in Central Milton Keynes and attended by local employers, organisations and agencies.

Opening the event, Milton Keynes Council’s head of public health Derys Pragnell said attitudes towards mental health at work were changing and employers should have a mental health at work plan in place and be equipped to spot the signs of mental ill-health among staff.

She outlined ways in which employers can improve their workplace environment and tackle mental health issues, including support training, creating a positive culture and encouraging employees to talk rather than bottle up issues that may be affecting them.

She added: “Being employed is, generally, good for you. But people spend a lot of time at work so how the workplace is can impact significantly on mental well-being. It is an issue that affects everybody.”

Delphi Ellis, a therapist at the mental health charity MIND covering Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire and Luton, told delegates at the forum that admitting mental ill-health had been seen as a weakness for far too long. Organisations should create a space for mental health to be openly discussed in the workplace, she added.


l To download the MKBLP guide Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace, visit www.mkblp.co.uk  

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