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To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (12-18 May), Amanda Mcburney from Remploy explains why it is vital that people with mental health conditions are helped to stay in work.

One in four adults in the UK will experience a mental health condition in any given year, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating the cost of mental health to the UK economy at £70 billion per year – or, put another way, 4.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

“The annual cost to UK employers of mental ill health at work is thought to be £26 billion, which averages out at £1,035 per employee,” says Amanda Mcburney, senior operations manager for Remploy’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

To add to the blizzard of worrying statistics, the Office for National Statistics says 15.2 million days of sickness absence across the UK in 2013 were caused by stress, anxiety or depression, compared to 11.8 million days in 2010.

“Companies that don’t take the issue seriously risk exposing themselves to higher staff turnover, reduced competitiveness and damaged corporate reputation,” says Mcburney, who is urging employers to promote positive employee mental wellbeing.

“A recent survey of employees diagnosed with a mental health condition found that fewer than half told their bosses after being diagnosed, which shows too many people still think admitting to having mental ill health will make them look weak,” she adds.

Remploy, which in the four years to April 2013 found more than 50,000 jobs in mainstream employment for people with a range of physical, sensory and mental disabilities and other health conditions, also has a strong track record of helping people stay in work, as Mcburney explains.

“We provide support for candidates at more than 60 branches across the country, from Aberdeen to Plymouth. Many candidates have struggled to find employment because of their complex barriers to work, so getting a job is a life-transforming experience.

“However, as important as it is to find jobs for people who are furthest from the employment market, this is only one element of Remploy’s services. Helping people stay in work is, arguably, equally important.”

In December 2011 Remploy won contracts to run the Government’s flagship Workplace Mental Health Support Service (WMHSS), in Britain. Since then, its specialist vocational rehabilitation team has helped more than 2,300 people who were at risk of losing their jobs because of their mental health conditions.

WMHSS, which is part of the Government’s Access to Work scheme, provides six months’ work based support to enable individuals with mental health conditions to retain their employment. The support may involve assistance developing work based coping strategies or identifying reasonable adjustments, education and guidance for managers and signposting to additional mental health support and resources. It is impartial and confidential, comes at no cost to either employer or employee, can be delivered with or without the support of the employer and is delivered by experts who understand mental health and its impact in the workplace.

Says Mcburney: “Ninety per cent of clients who completed the scheme are still in workI’m hugely encouraged by the high success rate achieved so far – we have helped people who, without support, may well have fallen out of employment and be claiming benefits.

“I’m also delighted by a significant increase in referrals over recent months. The service is becoming more well-known and its success stories are a big factor in that. In fact, the success of the scheme was underlined last year when Remploy won the prestigious Vocational Rehabilitation Association’s VR Initiative of the year award for delivering WMHSS.

 “WMHSS is helping employees manage their condition at work and stay well and productive. It also helps employers create an inclusive and diverse workforce. And of course it is helping the UK economy, by reducing absence and turnover.”

To view a video about Remploy’s Workplace Mental Health Support Service go toyoutube-WMHSS