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Charity research prompts election call to protect workers’ mental health post-pandemic


Mental Health Foundation Scotland has called for a commission to be created to help Covid-19 recovery

A charity has called for politicians to take action to help improve Scotland's wellbeing post Covid-19.

Mental Health Foundation Scotland is calling for Scotland’s political parties battling in the Scottish Parliamentary elections to commit to progressive measures to support the mental health and wellbeing of workers across the country. 

As part of the campaign to build a Wellbeing Society in Scotland, the charity has proposed a Future of Work Commission to ensure that post-pandemic labour practices support mental wellbeing. The foundation recommends that the commission explores a four-day work week, ways to ensure an increase in the number of employers offering the Real Living Wage, new ways to tackle job insecurity, and more support to create mentally healthy workplaces. 

The calls come as a YouGov poll of 1024 Scottish adults revealed that only one quarter (26%) of working adults in Scotland experience a workplace culture that encourages complete openness about mental health.  Furthermore, 70% of respondents agreed that taking time off work for a physical illness or injury is taken more seriously in the workplace than taking time off for a mental health problem. 

Lee Knifton, director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “We know that ‘good work’ – a job with a living wage, control and influence over working environment, flexibility, opportunities for development, and adequate working conditions - is good for our mental health.  We can prevent many mental health problems including work-related stress and anxiety, if we come together to build a Wellbeing Society that facilitates mentally healthy workplaces.

“We urge the next Scottish Government to do everything in its power to ensure that labour practices support good mental health.  Our recommendations would provide not only mental health benefits for individuals but wider economic benefits, with days lost to mental ill-health vastly reduced if the right support is in place.” 

It is estimated that mental health problems cost Scottish employers £2 billion per year.

In addition to supporting people at work, the Foundation is urging political parties to take action on unemployment and poverty.  In the You Gov survey, just 17% of adults in Scotland felt satisfied with the measures being taken to tackle unemployment, and only 15% of adults in Scotland are satisfied with measures being taken to reduce poverty. The foundation is calling on all political parties to commit to a Wellbeing Budget in the first two years of the next government, with radical measures to end poverty and prevent a Covid-19 unemployment crisis.

The charity’s recent State of a Generation Scotland report explains the detrimental mental health impact that job loss and being out of work can have on both the individual and wider society.  Increased job insecurity has been linked to an increased risk of depressive symptoms while becoming unemployed can be a traumatic experience that negatively affects self-esteem and increases feelings of distress. Research also suggests that countries which experience high unemployment, income decline and economic recession are more likely to experience poorer mental wellbeing and increased rates of common mental health problems.

As part of the Mental Health Foundation’s State of a Generation study, it was revealed that 83% of adults aged 18-64 in Scotland felt unemployment or job loss has a negative effect on mental health.  Additionally, more than a quarter of adults in Scotland (25%) who had experienced job loss or unemployment felt unsupported during that time.  

Knifton added: “As a root cause of poor mental health, we are urging politicians to tackle job insecurity, unemployment and poverty across Scotland. We’ve heard promises from all sides but we will need to see rapid action to match this rhetoric.  Our manifesto calls for good mental health to be at the heart of all decision-making, with a real effort across all policy areas to reduce inequality.  An important part of this is for our next Scottish Government to immediately convene a Future of Work Commission to develop a Scottish strategy for mentally healthy workplaces.”

Read Mental Health Foundation Scotland’s manifesto A Wellbeing Society:  Delivering Good Mental Health for All online.



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