People with common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression will have access to an 'employment advisor' to help them find, stay in or return to work.
This is because new government funding of £122 million is being used to roll out an NHS England service across the country to provide 100,000 people receiving support for their mental health issues with additional advice for navigating the job market.
The initiative will bring therapists and employment advisors – who provide compassionate support for those who have been through difficult times – together to help each person find a tailored job to their needs and lifestyle.
As well as strong evidence showing that being in work itself improves wellbeing, it is also hoped the service will help grow the success of both individuals and the economy.
"On World Mental Health Day, it is important to recognise the virtuous circle between health and work – we know that giving people the support they need to work is very good for their long term health," said department of work and pensions secretary of state, Chloe Smith.
"The government's growth-focused agenda will deliver jobs, higher wages and greater opportunities – and I am delighted that people who have faced barriers to entering the workforce due to poor mental health will now be able to access support across England."
Thousands of people with long-term mental illnesses end up having to leave their jobs each year. But separately, it is important to remember that employers have a responsibility to make 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure workers with mental health conditions (or physical conditions or disabilities) are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.
This might include adjusting the recruitment process, allowing someone to work in a way that suits their needs, flexible hours or part-time working.
"Helping people access both clinical support for their mental health as well as employment advice gives them the tools they need to get into or return to work. This is vital to helping drive down inactivity and growing our economy so we can deliver more money and support for public services such as these," added Smith.
Health and social care secretary and deputy prime minister, Thérèse Coffey, echoed this with, "Good physical health and mental wellbeing of the nation is also good for the economic health of the nation and this government is committed to supporting those not working due to ill health.
"Giving people receiving mental wellbeing support access to an employment adviser will help them start, stay, and succeed in work – improving their wellbeing and resilience as well as growing our economy."
Getting a referral to NHS talking therapies, known officially as Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), can either be done through your GP, a healthcare professional, or through self-referral. Using IAPT services, having psychological treatment and employment support are all voluntary.
"The NHS is committed to keep doing its part to support those with mental health issues who want to work, and offering employment advice from experienced advisors through our Talking Therapies services across the country is a fantastic and important development, especially in times of economic challenges and increased need for mental health support," said Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director.
Nearly 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace, with women in full-time employment nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men, at 19.8% and 10.9% respectively, according to the Mental Health Foundation,
Evidence suggests 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK are due to mental health conditions.
NHS England Therapists and employment advisers already work together in 40% of the country. Over the three-year spending review period the service will be extended nationally with recruitment and training of around 700 advisors, so that up to 100,000 people can receive the combined offer each year from 2024 to 2025, accessing the support to “start, stay and succeed in work", according to the government.
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"We know that being in work has many benefits for our mental health and wellbeing, from increasing our sense of purpose to providing a structured routine, and while thousands of people already benefit from this ground-breaking service, this wider country-wide rollout means all people struggling with anxiety and depression will be able to access both our usual NHS Talking Therapies offer...and expert employment advice, in all areas of the country," added Murdoch.
In a nutshell, as work can help boost wellbeing and security, people with mental health conditions (who could work with extra support) shouldn't have to miss out on this because their job's environment or barriers to access exacerbates theirs. Testimonials provided by the government include employment advisors giving individuals interview training, guidance on returning to work after a long absence, improving CVs, enhancing job searching skills and building confidence.
The new service to help people get back to work is already fully operational in Cheshire and The Wirral.
Better mental health support in the workplace can also save businesses up to £8 billion each year, according to the Foundation.
For advice you can visit the Mental Health Foundation's website page on how to support mental health at work, call the Samaritans for emotional support on 116 123 or email email@example.com, or call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the NHS website to find an IAPT service, or speak to your doctor.