At Community’s Torquay 2017 conference, delegates voted overwhelmingly for the union to pursue a campaign around mental health in the workplace. Although its time as a priority campaign has ended, mental health is still an important issue for us. We will continue to change minds and change lives for members suffering in silence across the UK.
Over the next two years, Community will make mental health the focus of a priority campaign throughout the union. The move comes as government promises of more action on mental health fail to materialise.
Mental health was chosen as a priority for the union at Community’s conference in Torquay at the end of June 2017. In a new approach, three potential areas were discussed and debated by delegates: mental health, apprenticeships and adult social care. There were informed and passionate speakers on each issue but delegates voted overwhelmingly for mental health to be the union’s first priority campaign.
At the start of last year, the Prime Minister Theresa May MP announced a package of reforms, which she said would ‘transform mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities’. But ten months on, there has been little to no progress.
There are fears the situation is getting worse. In September 2017, Luciana Berger, Labour MP and mental health campaigner, obtained figures through freedom of information requests, which found that more than half of clinical commissioning groups are planning to cut or freeze mental health services for the third year running.
“Theresa May claims to be committed to improving mental health but her cuts are harming mental health services,” said Ms Berger.
“Ministers must ask themselves how long this can be allowed to go on for. They are overseeing a system which puts patients at risk and staff under unbearable pressure.”
At the TUC Congress in Brighton last year, Community led the debate on mental health funding. Our General Secretary, Roy Rickhuss, referred to the mental health debate that took place at Community’s own conference, saying “my members have told me about their struggle and sadness while they wait for someone to help.”
In particular, he referred to the emotional testimony given by Paul Trippitt, a Scunthorpe steelworker, who bravely read the words of his daughter recounting her daily struggle with her mental health.
At the TUC, Roy pledged that Community would take its own action by offering more training for its reps to spot mental health issues in the workplace. He also called on the government to give mental health reps statutory rights on a par with health & safety reps.
“We will provide tailored support to all of our members, whether they work in a steelworks, a warehouse or a prison. Mental health affects everyone, whether personally or close family and friends. Every single one of us has a duty of care.
“Evidence is growing to show that people can lose years off their lives as mental illnesses impact on their physical health too. The sad fact is that this is one of the biggest health challenges of our time and it remains largely unaddressed,” concluded Roy as he called for all unions to campaign for better mental health support.