Better mental health will boost the economy

How supporting those with mental health conditions can boost the economy

This government, like many before it, and predictably many after it, have declared physical health and mental health must be seen as one. They have advocated and congratulated charity efforts to dispel misconceptions about the issues and offered menial funds that are just enough to keep the system running in its constant state of crisis management but not enough to make any meaningful difference to cut astronomical waiting times, piece together disjointed services and improve woeful quality. 

Politicians must believe the solutions to the mental health are too costly for a nation to deal with and/or too ambitious to overcome as they feel compromising on the health of our children, workers and pensioners is far more sensible than offering a bold roadmap to actually lift mental health services to the level physical health is at. But to believe this shows the total lack of understanding of the scale of the issue and how both problems and solutions permeate every aspect of society, whether it is the productivity crisis or the quality of children’s education, mental health affects all of this. 

Over the summer I wrote a paper with Centre Think Tank on reforming our mental health system. It took the issue as an opportunity not just to ensure the health and happiness of the nation, which in itself should be enough to justify costs and efforts, but as an opportunity to improve the quality of life, education and opportunities for every Briton at every stage in life. In order to solve this issue and stem the increasing prevalence of crushingly serious mental health issues, we cannot take half measures and bathe in the mediocrity many politicians like to. It may be an ambitious plan, but a mental health first economy is necessary to not just ensure the health and happiness of Britain, but the future of our nation.

An area where I found strengthening mental health support and rights allowed for an ambitious vision was in workers’ rights. Our plan for collective bargaining and workers on company boards, as seen in Germany and France, will help strengthen and protect workers’ rights, quality of work and wages by ensuring those who know best about what needs to change in the workplace can discuss and agree a legally binding plan, allowing flexibility for each sector while ensuring the workers are heard as an equal at the table in the usually faceless decisions of business. Workers across the board will be supported by universal rights to access to flexible working and freedom from business contact out of working hours to ensure they all have stronger minimum guaranteed rights.

To directly support mental health, every workplace will have mental health professionals with a mental health hub. This will help to support referrals to a properly funded and wide range of support and medicines to ensure every individual can enjoy the support they need, while anonymous helplines, a safeguarding officer and the collective bargaining workers unit allow the enforcement and protection of every individual to protect their rights. To ensure people’s individual plans can be followed and supported through their working lives, a document created as soon as someone is referred into the mental health system. Whether at school aged 14 or at work aged 41, it will accompany them and be shared with employers, job centres, educational establishments, etc. to ensure all individuals can be supported appropriately to their individual needs. Where workers feel like, regardless of what they try, their mental health and worth is undervalued and the quality of work is not good enough, a guaranteed minimum income will ensure workers have a safety net to fall onto to ensure they have the confidence to find quality work and never fall into poverty.

What is important to note however is that, whatever perspective you look at this from, there are a large number of benefits. From the perspective of the worker you have stronger rights and wages, while from a hard-nosed business perspective you help plug the 15million lost hours of work and the £45billion lost to poor mental health by the business community, from a governmental perspective every £1 invested in mental health £5 is yielded back while the productivity crisis that plagues government after government will be addressed with poor mental health giving a 4.5% burden on UK GDP. Small businesses will not lose out as any business with less that 250 workers will have access to free government training for required mental health positions in business. Those usually left behind in governmental policy changes, i.e., self-employed contractors, will be covered by their contractors’ mental health plan and self-employed sole traders and businesses of three or less people will receive free government support and advice on self-referrals to mental health services. 

Our plan is the most transformative mental health solution that any major figure or group has offered, irreversibly changing the fabric of our economy to prioritise and support every individual. This high-quality mental health system that allows flexibility for every individual situation will ensure everyone, regardless of the uniqueness or vulnerability of their situation, will be protected and no one left behind, while simultaneously eliminating poverty, empowering workers in having a say in the structure of business and ensuring a strong and fair wage that reflects the labour workers know they give to their company. No one should be left behind or let down when it comes to mental health, and our plan will ensure no one will ever be again.

About the author

Pushkin Defyer

Alumni Network Chair

Pushkin was previously on the executive of the Young Liberals and is now a member of the Labour Party. He has worked with candidates from multiple parties during election campaigns, mainly supporting them with his knowledge of digital campaigning.