Stigma around mental health must end, says UNISON

Employers urged to ‘take real action’ to support staff

Ahead of a landmark conference on how to improve mental health services in Cardiff later today (Tuesday), UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis will urge employers to ‘take real action’ to support staff who suffer from mental health issues.

At the conference, he will say: “Too often mental health is a subject that too many are wary of talking about.

“But we can and must talk about it, not least because the number of mental health cases we’re seeing is on the increase.

“One in four of us will have mental health problems this year, but all too often, public sector employees face stigma or are treated unfairly at work as a result of their mental health.

“So fostering an open and supportive attitude to mental health in the workplace is crucial. Providing an environment that promotes good mental health is something we all – including all employers – should aspire to.

“Whether it’s supporting those with existing mental health conditions with reasonable adjustments, or making sure staff are not given tasks that would have a negative impact on their mental health. There’s so much more that all of us can do.

“Stress levels among those looking after others’ mental health is also worryingly high. Staff shortages have left mental health staff more vulnerable to violence and aggression from service users and unable to provide the level of care that’s needed. Those working in the ambulance sector are also more likely to face mental health issues, as a direct result of their work.

“Employers rely on their dedicated staff to provide essential services in often difficult circumstances, made worse by squeezed budgets and the need to “do more with less” approach. Yet it can’t be forgotten that it is an employers’ duty to care for the health, safety and welfare of their staff and to reduce risk to them as far as they can. Our public service workers deserve no less.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON’s mental health conference will take place on Tuesday 10 October at the Pierhead building, Cardiff Bay, 10.30am – 3pm.
– A UNISON survey, Struggling to Cope, (released on Sunday) found that more than two-thirds (68%) of mental health workers felt that service users were increasingly reaching crisis point before accessing services because of a lack of staff, funding and beds. More than two in five (42%) mental health staff said they had been on the receiving end of violent attacks in the last year. More than a third (34%) are thinking about leaving their jobs in mental health, and 14% are actively planning on doing so. The main reasons cited by staff for wanting to leave were because they’d not had a decent pay rise for seven years (44%), the impact of their work on their own mental health and well-being (38%) and the poor state of the mental health sector (37%).
– The full survey is available here.

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