Research by MQ, Peopleful, and the Workwell Research Centre at Northwest University found that 1 in 5 employees in the UK are at high risk of burnout, with a further 22% showing signs of stress related ill-health. 

 “It’s disappointing to see the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions diminish and misrepresent people with mental illness. This is not simply a ‘culture’ that will go away on its own. People are not pretending to be sick, they really are sick.” 

Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 


 “There has been a significant increase in poverty, deprivation, housing insecurity and homelessness, loneliness and isolation over the last 15 years and these issues are all associated with depression and anxiety. It is therefore not surprising that we have seen a dramatic rise in people struggling with mental illness, including those who are at risk of self-harm and suicide. 

“The Government’s plan to ratchet up sanctioning people with mental illness for not working is unlikely to work – it isn’t working now. These proposals are likely to make people feel worse due to the hardship and debt they will face, which will ultimately cost the NHS and the taxpayer far more in the long run. 

“We are dealing with serious illnesses that affect the lives of millions of people, yet many can be prevented and treated effectively with timely access to mental healthcare services. 

“There are better ways of supporting people with mental illness to live healthy and productive lives, that are likely to be more successful. For example, the Individual Placement Support programme provides tailored help for people with severe mental illness as they try to secure appropriate work. They should make these types of supportive services more available to all those with mental illness. 

“With the right resources, mental health services could support people before they become too unwell to work. I sincerely hope Mel Stride will reconsider his approach.” 


So what can be done to reduce the benefit burden? 

 If the Secretary for Work and Pensions is keen to reduce the number of people out of work due to ill-health, and therefore the benefits spend, evidence has shown that preventing people from becoming sick is more cost-effective than sanctioning people who are already struggling. 

 More than £2 billion is spent annually on social care for people with mental health problems, with the wider cost being estimated at over £117.9 billion across the UK through lost productivity and informal care costs. Mental Health problems also add considerably to education, criminal and justice systems workloads 

 Investing in preventing ill-health, such as by improving early intervention measures, shortening waiting lists, raising living standards and encouraging positive employer workplace practices have all been shown to help reduce the risk of people reaching a crisis point with their mental health. 

 Early intervention versus crisis intervention for Psychosis alone could save the NHS over £33.5 million each year and shave £63 million off the societal cost of illness.  

“Early Intervention Services are recommended in the NHS because of evidence gathered and analysed in a research setting that shows that these services improve outcomes for patients and save money. We have now shown that each person treated in an early intervention service is twice as likely to become employed and 50% more likely to go into stable housing, compared to people with early psychosis who are treated in other services. People in early intervention services also spend less time in hospital, which is good news for them, and also saves the NHS money.”

Professor Belinda Lennox, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust 


A 2014 report by the LSE and Rethink Mental Illness found that early intervention could equal a net saving of £7,972 per person over four years. Over a ten-year period £15 in costs could be saved for every £1 invested in Early Intervention.  

MQ has consistently called on the Government to do more to prevent mental illnesses where possible. 

 Last year MQ joined calls from 35 mental health organisations for all political parties to prioritise prevention, equality and support in the Mentally Healthier Nations manifesto.  

 This was in addition to our Cost-of-living report which called for a reshaping of economic and social policies to tackle the underlaying cause of inequalities.  

 The Gone Too Soon roadmap laid out actionable steps that the government could take to reduce the premature mortality that is associated with serious mental illnesses.  

 Most recently, MQ contributed to an All-Party Parliamentary Group report that called for a population-wide public health strategy to deal with Adverse Childhood Experiences and reduce the ‘trauma trap’. 


All of the above reports, papers and roadmaps are evidence based and make it clear the actions government can take to reduce the burden of mental ill-health. 

Dealing with mental illnesses is complex and difficult, but its important for policy makers to remember that these are individuals whose lives are being impacted, not lines on a spreadsheet that make up a financial bottom line. 



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