New Public Health Responsibility Deal (Responsibility Deal) mental health pledge

The Public Health Responsibility Deal (Responsibility Deal) was announced by the UK Government in March 2011 based on the premise that industry can help to contribute to public health goals. Those signed up to the Responsibility Deal have committed to take action to improve public health by signing up to some of a series of pledges covering food, alcohol, physical activity and health at work.

Now nine organisations have signed up to a new pledge, Mental Health Adjustments, which was launched on 27 June 2012. These first signatories have committed to embed the principles formulated in the Department of Health’s guide for employers on workplace adjustments for employees suffering from mental health conditions, namely to ensure that they are fully committed to supporting job retention and return to work for people suffering from conditions such as the early signs of stress as well as other mental health problems (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.).

Despite the fact that the Mental Health Foundation states that one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, there is a stigma attached to mental health, which can trap a person in a cycle of illness (e.g. they can be socially excluded, discriminated against at work and therefore become less likely to open up about their condition, seek help or recover). Certain national campaigns (e.g. Time to Change) aim to change attitudes towards mental ill health.

Now Channel 4 has signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge and is using some of its primetime programmes to get a mass audience thinking about mental health in order to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination (4 Goes Mad). Eight volunteers (some with significant mental health issues, some without) will be appearing in some of Channel 4’s most popular primetime shows (e.g. ‘Location, Location, Location’ and ‘Come Dine With Me’) and will then have their work skills evaluated by a panel of business experts to ascertain whether they are able to spot those who suffer from mental illness.

It is noteworthy that two of the most popular guides on the Health for Work Adviceline knowledge base cover mental health topics (e.g. work-related stress, work adjustments for employees suffering from mental health conditions). Mental health problems are predicted to become Europe’s largest health challenge in the 21st Century so it’s time to talk openly about them. Call 0800 0 77 88 44 to speak to an occupational health professional if you’re looking for help with employee mental (or physical) health issues.

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