The government is to offer workers who have been made redundant or are recently unemployed access to “talking therapies” to help pick themselves up and get back into work, amid calls for such help to be extended to anxious and stressed workers still in employment.
The plan, announced in March by health secretary Alan Johnson and work and pensions secretary James Purnell, outlined a range of support for the newly unemployed, including a faster roll-out of talking therapies this year, and more job support for people with mental health problems.
Health advisers on NHS Direct will be trained to spot people who might be experiencing depression because of economic problems, and there will be more online advice and information through the NHS Choices website.
But, with thousands being laid off every month, and many more worried about their job security and finances, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has said the plans do not go far enough. Senior public policy adviser Ben Willmott warned that unless such assistance is also made available to those in employment, the number of people with mental health problems will continue to spiral upwards.
“Stress at work and other common mental health problems like anxiety and depression are likely to become a growing challenge for individuals, employers and society as the recession takes hold,” he said.
His warning came as Professor Sayeed Khan, chief medical adviser at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, urged employers to pay closer attention to their employees’ health and wellbeing in the current economic climate, or face the prospect of increased sickness absence.
The temptation to cut costs in this area should be resisted, he warned delegates at a conference in February, because problems with health and wellbeing are not confined to those out of work or made redundant.
EEF has published a free work organisation assessment tool to help employers identify how healthy their organisation is, while the Health and Safety Executive recently launched a website to help employers better identify and manage workplace-related stress.