As Mayor of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) I recently launched ‘Working Win’ – a new health-led employment trial that aims to break down barriers that stop people from getting or keeping jobs.
‘Working Win’ is being run by the SCR and involves a number of different organisations – such as the Department of Work and Pensions, the South Yorkshire Housing Association and our local NHS trusts – working together to help local people get and stay in work. It is not right that people with physical and mental health issues often face barriers to realising their full potential.
If you are unable to work through no fault of your own then it is right that the Government steps in to support you. That was the intention of the post-war Labour Government that built our NHS and Welfare State – a safety net when times are hard.
For plenty of people, the barriers they face are not impossible to overcome, they just need the right support to get into and remain in work – which is where ‘Working Win’ comes in.
Nearly always, work in itself can have a positive impact. It gives you a sense of direction and purpose when you get up in the morning. And when people are working, our economy works better too due to the taxes that are contributed and the higher productivity that grows our economy.
‘Working Win’ is not solely focused on getting people into work. It is also part of a wider movement that is looking to change how we deal with issues like mental health in the workplace.
Mental health will be one of the biggest public health issues that we as a country face over the next decade. That is why we need to ensure that our health service gives ‘parity of esteem’ to mental health – meaning that there is no difference in how you are treated whether you have a mental or physical health problem.
And we have got to make sure that mental health services get the funding they need. We need a Government that will ring-fence parts of the NHS budget to ensure that funding reaches the front line of mental health service provision.
I was heartened to hear recently about the Chief Executive of Barnsley FC, Gauthier Ganaye, who wrote to a long-standing Barnsley fan who was suffering with depression. Gauthier’s message was simple: “You have always supported us, now we are here to support you”.
Tackling mental health is something for everyone, from a football club reaching out to a fan, to us all being willing to listen when someone needs to talk.
It is vitally important that we break down the barriers and stigma that still surrounds mental health. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and every week 84 men will take their own lives.
Organisations such as CALM, who run the Project 84 campaign to raise awareness of male suicide, and MIND do fantastic work providing support for people suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. But we can all do our bit, even by just recognising that sometimes it’s ok not to be ok, and encouraging people to ask for help when it’s needed.
If you are suffering with mental health problems you can contact CALM on 0800 585858; MIND on 0300 123 3393; or the Samaritans on 116 123.
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 7 September 2018.