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Tuesday 12th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

Unions will increase awareness in the British workplace

THE TUC will spearhead a major national campaign to increase public awareness of mental health in the workplace.

Delegates at conference yesterday urged the government to make understanding of mental health a priority.

Tam McFarlane from the Fire Brigades Union told conference of the effect of traumatic experiences on firefighters, including cutting people out of vehicles and hearing people screaming as they die.

He said a third of firefighters have mental-health issues, according to a recent survey by charity Mind, and 40 per cent are taking prescription medication for them.

Mr McFarlane criticised former London mayor Boris Johnson for cutting the number of counsellors helping firefighters in the capital from 14 to just two.

This has had a severe effect on crew members who attended the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze in June, many of whom are traumatised yet struggle to find an available counsellor, he said.

He explained that one fire-fighter who was at Grenfell told him: “It was absolutely horrific and still very, very raw. I’ve seen things I never want to see again. It will stay with me all of my life.”

The TUC called for increased funding and a halt to “unsustainable cuts.” Mental-health services face severe real-terms budget cuts — the King’s Fund think tank estimated that 40 per cent of England’s 58 NHS trusts suffered budget cuts in the last financial year.

There are almost 5,000 fewer mental-health nurses since the Tories came to power in 2010. Forty per cent of trusts responding to the King’s Fund survey said that they planned more reductions to clinical staff numbers for the coming year.

And there are at least 1,000 fewer beds in mental-health units.

Annette Mansell-Green, head of employment relations at the British Dietetic Association, poured scorn on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s claims that the Department of Health plans to recruit 21,000 more nurses and treat one million more patients by 2020.

“The money isn’t there,” she said. “We’re struggling to provide the services we currently have.”

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said mental health was “an issue of growing importance” because, he said, 75 per cent of those with mental-health conditions are in work.

“Twelve million people are going to their GP for mentalhealth issues every year,” he told Congress.

“But as long as it is a hidden disability it is a problem,” he said.