POLITICS

NHS 'Not Prepared' To Deal With Depression, Vast Majority Of MPs Say

21/04/2015 07:58 BST | Updated 21/04/2015 07:59 BST

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After Huffington Post UK revealed 84% of people regard depression as illness like any other, a new survey has found the vast majority of MPs do not believe the NHS is equipped to deal with it.

Just four of 50 MPs surveyed said they believed the NHS is prepared to manage depression efficiently while 66% of them disagreed.

The charity Depression Alliance said 76% of those questioned felt that cost-effective mental health services should have the same mandatory funding as physical health services, while 60% agreed that mental health problems are an important national policy issue in the UK, second only to cancer.

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The charity has launched a campaign to improve the number of people with depression in work.

A total of 72% of the MPs who took part in the poll believe the next government should prioritise supporting people with depression to get back into employment.

The same percentage also agreed that the government should provide support to small and medium sized businesses to promote prevention and early intervention in depression in the workplace.

A remarkable 80% said too little had been done to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health in the workplace, despite the Tory manifesto lauding the progress made in achieving parity of esteem more generally.

Emer O'Neill, chief executive of Depression Alliance, said: "With one in every six working age people suffering from depression at any one time, improving awareness and support for individuals and businesses is critical. People with depression can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

"Yet it is still a taboo, with too many people - individuals and employers - afraid to discuss the issue and find meaningful and appropriate solutions.

"Beyond providing income, work provides structure and focus, it creates social opportunities and give us a sense of achievement and it's a very important part of maintaining recovery from depression.

The survey also found:
  • Almost two thirds of MPs surveyed (64%) have personal experience of depression, with a friend, family member, or themselves receiving a diagnosis of depression by a medical professional
  • Two thirds of MPs (66%) agree that personal contact or experience has had the greatest impact on their views of depression
  • Significantly more Labour MPs than Conservatives feel that depression is a disabling condition (32% versus 17%)
  • More Conservative (21%) MPs believe that ‘depression is a lifestyle disease’ than their Labour counterparts (5%), and one in four Conservatives (25%) think that people are generally sympathetic to those with depression (versus 5% of Labour MPs)

She added: "The majority of MPs agree that this should be a priority of the next government, so we call on the incoming class of 2015 MPs to work with us to improve employment rates for people with depression in order to boost businesses and strengthen the UK economy."

The poll saw 50 MPs who sat in the last parliament surveyed - 24 from the Conservative Party, 22 from the Labour Party, two from the Liberal Democrats and two from other parties.

Former minister for mental health, Lib Dem Paul Burstow, said: "I'm fully behind the Work in Progress campaign. We all need to do more to help raise awareness of mental health and what an important part work can play in recovery.

"Helping people with depression to feel supported in their work environment can mean the world to those individuals, and the bottom line is it could also save UK businesses billions.

"I call on every MP elected next month to help build a strong political force driving change, fighting stigma against mental illness and doing everything possible to keep people in work."

Geoff McDonald, who was HR Vice President for Unilever and suffered depression while at work, said: “Now more than ever we need to break the stigma and taboo associated with depression in the corporate world.

"Employers particularly need to start with educating leaders and all employees on which symptoms to look out for, how to help and manage someone with depression and integrate them back into the workplace and the aspects of organisational culture that need to change to create more caring organisations.”

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