A MENTAL health project on Wearside is backing calls for patients suffering from psychiatric problems to have their cases prioritised so that more people can stay in work.
Professor Dame Sally Davies said the number of working days lost due to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by almost a quarter since 2009, while the number lost due to serious mental illness has doubled.
The Department of Health’s chief medical officer is asking health experts to investigate whether or not it would be beneficial to speed up the treatment pathway for those who may fall out of work due to mental illness.
Dame Sally, speaking as a report into the situation was released, added that such a move could improve people’s chances of staying in work.
The call comes as she raised concerns that around 70million working days were lost to mental illness last year at a cost of up to £100billion to the economy.
Dorothy Gardiner, project manager at Sunderland Mind in Norfolk Street, said: “Sunderland Mind agrees wholeheartedly that spending on mental health needs to be increased to address the growing issue of mental health.
“It is important to stress that there needs to be an increase in funding across both statutory and the voluntary sector.
“We would welcome and promote greater support from employers towards employees suffering from mental health issues.
“Sunderland Mind have recently been involved in a campaign to promote mental health awareness in the work place, hopefully leading to increased better support in the work place.”
Dame Sally said: “The costs of mental illness to the economy are astounding. I urge commissioners and decision-makers to treat mental health more like physical health.
“The World Health Organisation model of mental health promotion, mental illness prevention and treatment and rehabilitation should be adopted in public mental health in England.
“One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60-70 per cent of people with common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy.”