Rapid access to treatment will help employees stay in work: UK EAPA comment on the mental health of the nation
In her annual report on the mental health of the nation, the government’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, reports that working days lost due to stress, depression and anxiety have increased by 24% since 2009 and the number of working days lost due to serious mental health illness has doubled.
Mental ill health now represents 23% of the national disease burden in the UK and is the largest cause of disability. Accounting for 70 million sick days in 2013 and costing some £70–£100 billion per year, this represents a whopping 4.5% of our GDP.
People with mental health find it difficult to get treatment in England with some 75% receiving no treatment at all. However we should remember that between 60 and 70% of people with mental health remain in work.
Absence causes difficulty in returning to work, and the longer the individual is off work, the more difficulty they have returning, employers should look at measures in the workplace that could increase control, and employee flexibility as these may improve mental health. The notion that ‘work is good for you’ is often used to justify a return to, or remaining within work. However, we need to consider what work? For whom? When? In what way?
The statement has been amended – ‘Good work is good for your health
There has been a 6% increase in funding for the ‘Improving Access to Psychological Treatments Service’ (IAPTS). However IAPT does not yet meet the needs of the population it serves and it should be supported to continue its work to deliver NICE recommended standards of care to all who need them.
Only 30% of the UK workforce has access to specialised occupational healthcare. Many of those with mental illness fail to take sick leave when they need it. This is often ascribed to their concerns about stigma. However, untreated mental illness reduces productivity, and this represents the biggest single contribution to the economic losses due to mental illness. OECD evidence suggests that common mental disorders reduce productivity as much as severe mental illness.
The Chief Medical Officer’s report found that rapid access to treatment could improve employees’ chances of staying in work and the UK EAPA welcomes this.
“An EAP is a workplace based program that provides employees with a direct access to counselling treatment for a wide range of mental health illnesses that affect work and home, as well as accepting employer led and occupational health led referrals for assessment and treatment. EAPs provide a fast access to mental health professionals in line with Dame Davies’ suggestion that access to treatment could improve employees staying in work,” said Eugene Farrell, speaking on behalf of the UK EAPA Executive Committee.