Mental Health and Wellbeing for Women in Work

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2005 National Women's Conference
21 October 2004

Just over 280,000 people in Wales are being treated by their doctor for depression, 195,000 of those are women. These figures are dwarfed by the numbers of people across the UK are are being treated for depression, where three million people are in receipt of doctor support for depression, the overwhelming majority of these are women. In many ways anxiety, stress and depression have become the generational illnesses of today’s modern day working life.

The majority of women in work juggle job pressures with competing family demands. Many experience financial, family or relationship problems combined with ever increasing demands at work to be more productive. These competing pressures can cause reactive stress which in turn becomes distress. Reactive stress and distress can over time turn into a depressive illness. With bullying on the increase, many women will gradually slip into a diagnosis of depression.

Most employers do not know how to deal with someone who is off from work with a mental health condition, preferring simply to monitor sickness certificates whilst using absence monitoring procedures that could lead to a job being terminated due to someone’s inability to return to work within a set period. Although many employers have access to occupational health specialists these specialists are not generally available early enough to be able to make recommendations that could make a difference to the levels of deep distress, anxiety, stress or depression that employees suffer from.

Research indicates that the development of best practice and early intervention when someone is off with a mental health condition would mean for the majority of cases that women would be far less likely to lose their jobs. Women suffering from abuse from within their home from a family member can find themselves estranged from their home whilst estranged from work, isolated and alone. Conference believes that we have to find ways of ending that isolation.

Conference requests the National Women’s Committee collate from across the regions evidence of good practice when managing mental ill health in work as it affects women, developing new working links with women members on the National Disabled Members’ Committee, National Black Members’ Committee and National Lesbian and Gay Members’ Committee to consider and then report upon how a best practice guide to managing mental health and well-being in work for UNISON women might be created.