People with mental illnesses in Dorset are much less likely to have a job than their peers, the figures suggest.
Mental health charity Mind called for more to be done to tackle a striking national employment gap, saying hundreds of thousands of people with long-term mental health issues lose their jobs every year – many due to a lack of appropriate support in the workplace.
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These calls were echoed by the Dorset-based charity RJVN8, which is calling for more volunteer opportunities to help reintroduce people into the work environment and build confidence.
NHS Digital data shows that in March the employment rate for Bournemouth’s working-age population was around 69%, but for those with mental health problems the number was well below 38%.
Across Dorset the employment rate for the working-age population was around 77 per cent, but for those with mental disorders it was only 49 per cent.
Across England as a whole, only 51% of people with mental illness were employed in March, compared to 75% of the working-age population.
The figures are based on the Labor Force Survey – a study of the employment conditions of people – by the Office for National Statistics.
Edward Bates, co-founder of RJVN8 said: “There are so many challenges, mainly because mental health is an invisible disease and we cannot tell how someone is feeling at any given moment.
“One in four people across the country suffers from mental health problems of some description, so I imagine those numbers are even higher, although some people are able to continue working despite severe anxiety or depression. .
“I think there need to be more volunteering opportunities that would help make it easier for people to get back to full-time jobs.
“Plus there’s always a stigma around mental health and people don’t feel like they can just go to their employers and say ‘listen, I’m someone with severe depression and I maybe need two days off a month because I don’t feel like I can get out of bed.
“This stigma means fewer people are able to speak out although this situation is improving and the pandemic has made it possible for more people to work from home which is great and we hope this continues.”
Mind calls on employers to become legally obligated to monitor and reduce health-related pay gaps and to have statutory sick pay start earlier to ensure sick employees don’t work because they can’t afford time off.
A government spokesperson said PAS wait days shield employers from the cost of short-term absences and many pay above the minimum level.