Tackling mental ill-health in the workplace needs policy rethink

A rethink of workplace policies is required to tackle the huge problem of mental ill-health, which costs up to £77bn-a-year for England alone.

Proposals aimed at reducing the cost of workplace mental illness to employers are contained in a major two-year study by Foresight, a government think-tank.

The Mental Capital and Wellbeing report looks at how a person’s mental resources change through life, and identifies factors that can help or hinder their development.

The report concludes that there is a clear case for action by government, employers and individuals to boost wellbeing.

Recommendations include:

  • New forms of flexible working could help employees meet the conflicting demands of intensification of work and the increased need for people to look after older relatives.
  • There should be better integration of primary care and occupational health services to identify early symptoms of stress and mental ill-health, which could help people return to work.
  • Continuous development of ‘mental capital’ by training and retraining through working lives will be crucial to compete in the global market for skills and can improve mental wellbeing.

John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific adviser and director of the Foresight programme, said: “Investing to identify and tackle learning difficulties early on and improving the take up of education and learning will result in people getting better jobs.

“The report has shown that if an individual is fulfilled in their work, this positively affects wellbeing, and this in turn will see reduced expenditure on the treatment of mental health problems,” he added.

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