I am looing forward to the Annual Meeting of the CIPD North Yorkshire branch at which I will end six years as volunteer branch chair. Over the last six years I have met an increasing number of HR professionals who are supporting employees who are dealing with mental health issues. It has been good to see the change in attitude towards an area of health that affects a quarter of the UK population, although much more needs to be done before we understand mental health issues as well as we understand physical health. It was for this reason that I challenged Kerry Smith the volunteer leader of the branch events team to create an event, my last as branch chair that would contribute to increasing this understanding.
As the first bookings for the Annual Meeting are arriving the World Health Organisation has published research that identifies the benefits of investing in mental health services for workers has on productivity and profitability.
This year’s Annual Meeting falls in Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, and our guest speaker will be Jon Bartlett, who lives and works with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.
In the United Kingdom some 70 million working days are lost each year to mental health related absence. Globally the cost of depression and anxiety disorders costs US$1 trillion each year.
Part of the reason why poor mental health is such a problem is that it is an area of health that is so often misunderstood. People do not know how to recognise the early signs of mental health issues or have the confidence to seek help.
It is not so long ago that a similar issue existed with male specific cancers like prostrate and testicular cancer. Early diagnosis and subsequent successful treatment is increasing are as a result of campaigns like Movember and the check-em out campaign which featured pop star Robbie Williams. Learning lessons from these campaigns will help to break down the stigma associated with mental health and get people to discuss it. Just as with many physical illnesses early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down or stop a mental health problem and lead to faster recovery.
At the Annual Meeting we will be learning from personal and organisational experience how to spot the common signs and symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and how to help each other – and yourselves.
As HR professionals we have an important role to play in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and reducing the discrimination the sufferers encounter. Regardless of the issue that HR professionals have to deal with their role is more successful when they can demonstrate a clear business benefit from the activities involved in solving the issue. Now the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Bank (WB) have released research which demonstrates that every US$ 1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$ 4 in better health and ability to work.
The WHO-led study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, provides a global estimate, for the first time, of both the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness. The study, provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said, “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too.”
Dr Chan called for new ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Depression and anxiety are increasing.
Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden. Humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. WHO estimates that, during periods of heighten activity, like meeting deadlines, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.
Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs
The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes for the fifteen years from 2016-2030.
The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and anti-depressant medication, amounted to US$ 147 billion. Yet the returns far outweigh the costs. A five percent improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US$ 399 billion, and improved health adds another US$ 310 billion in returns.
However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed. According to WHO’s Mental Health Atlas 2014 survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.
Figures from the Nuffield Trust indicate that in England the NHS spend around £12billion a year on mental health, including dementia. It is the biggest area of NHS spending, around double the amount spent on cancers and tumours.
Whilst appearing happy is no guarantee that someone does not have a mental health issue the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have identified what the happiest person in the UK might look like.
“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “This is not just a public health issue—it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”
The World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund want to see mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda with increases in funding for mental health.
Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health, said, “Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority—and a priority in every country. We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and businesses.”
Use this link to book your place at this event.