The invisibility of most mental health problems has meant that funding and support for these conditions within the National Health Service (NHS) have often been less of a priority than physical healthcare.
As part of their manifesto for the 2015 General Election, the Liberal Democrats have recognised the need for improvement in this area, acknowledging that mental health conditions will affect one in four people in the UK throughout a lifetime and that the prevalence of such conditions costs the country as much as £100 billion each year.
“Liberal Democrats believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and what your circumstances, you should not be denied the opportunity to fulfil your potential,” says party leader Nick Clegg. “Yet, in Britain today, millions of people are denied the opportunity to get on and live happy, fulfilling lives because they live with mental health issues.”
A “liberal mission”
The issue of effective treatment for mental health conditions has been at the forefront of the Lib Dems’ national health campaign for several years. In 2012, the party wrote equality for mental health into UK law and has since reported progress through financial investment in talk therapies and care for eating disorders and children with psychological conditions.
“This government has made great strides towards better mental health care,” says Liberal Democrat spokesman for health Norman Lamb. “Over two and a half million people have benefited from talking therapies thanks to the Liberal Democrats in government.”
If re-elected this year the party intend to take this further, promising to invest more than £2 billion over the course of the next parliament to “deliver genuine equality between mental and physical health” in the UK.
Increased funding is just the beginning of the pledge, which features on the first page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. In order to improve wellbeing throughout the UK the party feels it is necessary to reduce stigma by introducing good practice, better training and improved policies within the workplace.
Mental health at work
According to the HSE, in 2011 to 2012, 428,000 people in the UK reported experiencing work-related stress at an intensity that was damaging to their health. This accounts for 40 percent of total work-related illness, costing organisations financially and in terms of productivity.
“Although awareness of how to deal with mental health issues within a working environment has improved a great deal in recent years, HR professionals still face many challenges in this area,” says James Marsh, head of HR consulting at Symposium Events. “Greater support and advice for hiring and retaining staff that are suffering from conditions like depression will have a huge impact on UK businesses if it can reduce the drastic costs associated with poor levels of wellbeing in company culture.”
The Mental Health Foundation claims that continued employment is essential for improving mental health and yet only 27 percent of working age adults who suffer from mental ill-health were working in 2012.
The Lib Dems’ pledge to “support good practice among employers in promoting wellbeing and ensure people with mental health problems get the help they need to stay in or find work” could well improve the economy by helping people return to work, while supporting holistic methods of treatment by improving sufferers’ self-esteem through purposeful employment.
“It is very refreshing that Mental Health is a focus on the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto and raising its status within professionals and the public is encouraging,” says Ann McCracken, director of AMC2 and vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK). “Waiting time standards have not been particularly successful for physical health issues and an innovative approach to triage and availability of support would be extremely welcome.”
Equality for mental ill-health
A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that it can currently take up to ten years from the onset of a mental health condition for a person to receive a diagnosis and begin treatment. The Liberal Democrat’s proposed £500 million investment to “transform mental health care with waiting time standards to match those in physical health care” aims to provide support people find it necessary to take drastic action such as leaving their job.
According to Nick Clegg: “Only the Liberal Democrats can and will make sure mental health is treated with the same urgency as physical health, with money to back that up, and challenge the stigma every day.”
What do you think? Will you be voting Liberal Democrat for improved national mental health care? Vote below.
To learn more about mental health in the workplace sign up for Symposium’s Mental Health Awareness training day on 11th August.