Paul Burstow’s 3 steps for employers on mental health

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s long running work on mental health issues took another step forward this week with the publication of a mental health implementation framework aimed at helping people suffering from mental health problems in the workplace. Employers will be asked to take 3 steps to identify and support those 1 in 6 workers affected. These are:

1)    Make this year the Time to Change: Sign your company up to the Time to Change campaign to end mental health discrimination. By signing up, you make a public commitment from the top of the organisation to the bottom, send a strong message to employees, and get expert support from Time to Change in dealing with mental health issues at work.

2)    Get some ‘First Aid’ training in mental health: Most companies have an employee trained in first aid. But mental ill health is the most prevalent cause of illness among people of working age. Appointing someone as a mental health expert or training a number of people in awareness would make a huge difference. Training is available from a variety of organisations.

3)    Call for help: the Health for Work Advice line in England can be accessed on 0800 0 77 88 44 It is designed to support employers and employees in small and medium sized businesses, by providing free-to-use early and easy access to professional occupational health and well-being advice to help employees remain in or return to work after a period of ill health.

Launching the strategy, Nick said:

Today I am calling on every employer large and small to do a mental health stock take. Too many people suffer in silence with mental health issues. Employers are well placed to recognise warning signs and signpost their staff to support.

70 million working days are lost as a result of mental health issues every year, costing business £1000 every year for each employee. Managing mental health at work well can save around 30 per cent of these costs – businesses cannot afford not to take mental health seriously.

These three simple steps give all employers the support to look after their staff’s mental health and keep Britain working.

Liberal Democrat health minister Paul Burstow added:

If we are to improve the nation’s wellbeing organisations from across society need to act as catalysts for change in their communities. This framework provides the practical guidance to help make this happen and I am delighted with the support it has from across the mental health sector who have worked so hard on producing this with us.

If you look at the long press release in full, you’ll see that Nick and  Paul  have developed this strategy in conjunction with mental health charities and businesses. It’s a real partnership, founded on expert knowledge and best practice. I hope that unions will get on board with this and encourage their employees to carry out these steps, particularly signing up to the Time to Change campaign, so that employees  know that they work for an organisation that wants to eradicate the stigma associated with mental health and will find the support that they need from their employer.

Nick’s first major speech as leader way back in 2008 was about mental health issues and he has been inclusive and intelligent in the way he’s gone about formulating a series of measures to improve the mental health of the country. He’s provided treatment for half a million people, worked to help young people who are suffering and is now taking the effort to the workplace. I’ve written before about my own struggles with Depression. It’s pretty hellish and I really do feel that Nick and Paul are doing exactly the right things. I can’t help feeling intensely proud that it’s our leader and health minister who have taken the initiative on this. The steps they have taken will directly improve the lives of millions of people. What media attention did this merit? Merely an article in the Independent and an interview on Channel 4 News.  It’s time for Liberal Democrat members to put some serious effort into telling people in their area about Nick’s and Paul’s work on mental health. Everyone will know someone who benefits.