Soaring Levels of Anxiety Across Britain

25th September 2017 Posted in Blogs

One in three sick notes is now for mental health problems 

• The recently published NHS investigation has found that there are soaring levels of anxiety across Britain

• The NHS investigation found that more than 5 million people are being signed off work every year


Recently published NHS research has discovered that mental health and behavioural conditions were the most common reason for requesting a sick note in a staggering 31% of cases.  This marks a 14% rise in notes relating to anxiety and stress in one year.

NHS Research

• The Royal College of Psychiatrists has described the NHS research findings as “alarming.” They have asked that employers support all members of staff to ensure that those with common mental health problems, like depression, are provided with the necessary care, support and understanding in the workplace.

• An additional finding is that one in five of those signed off for mental health problems was off for at least three months.

• The report also shows a sharp rise in the numbers going off sick with anxiety and stress-related conditions, with 573,000 cases in 2016/17, compared with 503,000 cases the previous year.
NHS Comment

Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, said:

“These figures explain why the NHS is now putting mental health front and centre, in what was recently independently described as ‘the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses’.”

“When it comes to mental health, what’s good for patients is also good for taxpayers, because untreated mental health problems directly affect work, unemployment and benefits.”

Royal College of GP’s Comment

Dr Steve Mowle, spokesperson for the Royal College of GPs, said the figures might reflect changing attitudes, and reduced stigma, with employees feeling more able to speak up about mental health conditions.

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry said:

“The health and well-being of employees is a key priority for employers……firms will usually have policies in place – especially if they are large businesses – to help support their staff.”

Three Key Mental Health Facts

1. One in six

One in 6 people in the UK people will experience a mental health problem each week.

2. 20%

There is a rise of 20% in referrals to community mental health teams .

3. 9.7%

The proportion of British people who meet the criteria for diagnosis of mixed anxiety & depression according to most recent 2014 study is 9.7%.

Safety Smart Comment

• Employees have always suffered from mental health related issues which have resulted in absence from the work place. Mental health related issues are considered to be more socially acceptable and managable than was previously the case, even ten years ago. As a result, there is less stigma associated with making employers aware of any such issues, which has resulted in more people notifying their employers that they are suffering from stress in the workplace and associated anxiety and depression.

• The recent finding by the NHS that one in five of those signed off for mental health problems was off for at least three months is worrying. Safety Smart would suggest that employers ensure that their employees are made fully aware on a regular basis that support for mental health issues is available in the workplace. Then even if members of staff need to have some time off work, they will appreciate that upon their return, management will try to accommodate them, for example by introducing a gradual phased return and having regular appraisals to ensure that communication is as open and understanding as possible.

• In recent years, it has become a lot more common for employers to provide a confidential support helpline. However, we would perhaps suggest that employers should consider going further and actively encouraging members of staff to use the resource, so that employees appreciate that there is support available and that it should be used as a starting point for support rather than having to go to their GP for counselling which can sometimes take while to arrange if there is a waiting list in their area.

• Employers should also encourage members of staff who are feeling overly stressed or unwell to raise the issue with their line manager who can undertake a review of their current responsibilities and caseload and try to provide support and alleviate stress factors where at all possible.

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