MP’s concerns over mental health figures

A concerned MP is calling on the Scottish Government to review its approach to mental health issues.

It’s been revealed that 11,000 council workers across Scotland have been signed off with stress.

At East Dunbartonshire Council, 450 members of staff have been signed off with this and other mental health issues since 2012, according to MP Jo Swinson.

The figures were uncovered via a Freedom of Information request, and showed the 68 per cent of those signed off were absent for under a month.

Ms Swinson said: “It’s time the SNP Government got a grip on mental health. We have recently seen scandalous waiting time figures for adults and children who are in serious need of treatment, a lack of hospital beds and now these statistics which show a worryingly high number of council staff taking time off work.’’

She wants to see a maximum waiting times commitment, which is being introduced in England in April, brought in to Scotland.

The Scottish Government says it has committed an additional £15 million to mental health services over the next three years as well as tightening legislation, and is committed to ending the stigma of mental illness.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Improving mental health and treating mental illness are two of our major priorities. We have made clear commitments to improve mental health services and support for people experiencing distress and mental ill health.’’

East Dunbartonshire Council leader Rhondda Geekie said staff were encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles to promote wellbeing.

She added: ‘‘We recognise anyone can experience life events and/or a level of stress which they find difficult to cope with and which can impact on their health and wellbeing.

‘‘That’s why we have a ‘Wellbeing at Work’ policy and toolkit, and we have an Employee Welfare Team which supports employees with either personal or work related issues, or a combination of both. Where needed, an employee will be offered further, external support through, for example, our Employee Assistance Programme, HR Business Partners, debt counselling, osteopathy/physiotherapy or addiction services.

“We hold ‘Wellbeing at Work’ information days and we provide regular advice to employees to help them stay healthy. Our figures from 2012 to 2014 on the numbers of employees absent from work with stress-related reasons show significant improvement.

“While we are encouraged by this trend, we will continue to make the wellbeing of our employees a priority.’’