Mental Health in Northern Ireland – no-one has a clue just how bad things are!

In July I asked Stormont, specifically the Mental Health Statistics Department some questions that would enable us to quantify the impact of poor mental health on our society. They had no answers for me. Questions that can be answered for England and Wales, but for some reason not here.

Here’s the list I was seeking answers to:

How many working days are lost each year due to mental ill-health, including stress, depression and anxiety?

How does this compare with Heart Disease, Cancer and other major illnesses?

What is the £sterling cost of mental ill health sickness absence?

What is the £sterling cost in lost productivity?

What is the £sterling cost in replacing staff who leave due to mental ill health?

What is the cost to the NHS and social care in treating mental health problems?

What is the £sterling cost of the financial burden that falls on patients and their families?

What is the £sterling cost impact on quality of life for those who suffer with mental health problems?

How many people, what percentage have expressed feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or other mental/emotional problems?

How many people lost their employment due to mental health problems?

What is the current state of mental health in our education system?

How many students in Further Education have experienced

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Self harm
  • Eating disorders

How many young people have been hospitalized due to mental health problems in recent years?

How many young people are being treated with adult medications for mental health problems in recent years?

How many children have been diagnosed with mental health problems or ADHD, ADD in recent years?

What is the total cost of mental health issues in recent years including costs in industry,  education, NHS, social care, and an estimate for a monetary valuation of the intangible human cost of disability, suffering and distress.

How many prescriptions have been issued for mental health problems in recent years?

Now, admittedly that is a fairly detailed list of questions, however I feel we can only address the problem if we know just how big it is. And people can only improve the quality of their lives if they are given the support they need without hindrance or stigma.

A survey of 3000 workers for the charity Business in the Community found that 3 out 5 have experienced mental ill health but 15 per cent said they faced dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion if they talked about it. An increase of 6% on similar research from last year.

A spokesperson for the charity said that ‘over a million people face serious repercussions for disclosing mental health issues to their employers.’

The annual cost of mental ill health to the economy, the NHS and society of England and Wales is £105 billion, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

Mental ill-health in the workplace is costing UK employers billions

Mental ill-health, including stress, depression and anxiety, is thought to be responsible for 91 million lost working days each year, more than for any other illness.

More than one in four HR directors said that they had no formal process to deal with stress and anxiety and yet its the biggest cost to business today!

In the worst cases, we have workers too scared to talk about their mental ill health, we have managers who don’t know how what to do, and we have employers who don’t have facilities to support the mental well-being of their staff.

Mental Health is a workplace issue, it must become as much a part of Health and Safety and policed as effectively as fire safety and physical hazards.

Resources need to be allocated to support employees in overcoming their issues. Reducing stress loads and encouraging a good healthy balanced lifestyle is a great starting point.



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