9 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2015: Dignity in mental health Millions of people remain unemployed because of stigma around mental health problems

World Mental Health Day 2015: Dignity in mental health Millions of people remain unemployed because of stigma around mental health problems


Brussels, 9 October 2015 -“Discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person” states the Preamble of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Yet, people with mental health problems and psychosocial disabilities continue to suffer from stigma and discrimination every day and remain one of the groups most discriminated against in society, particularly when it comes to employment, which is strongly linked to a person’s income, social status and sense of dignity. OECD data from 2014 shows that people with severe mental health conditions are 6-7 times more likely to be unemployed than people without and those with a mild-to-moderate condition are 2-3 times more likely to be unemployed. Research shows that the longer people are unemployed, the more damaging the consequences for their mental health and the less likely they are to ever work again. Most alarmingly, a 2012 WHO study also showed that in the EU, increases in national unemployment rates are associated with increases in suicide rates (3,52) : It is time the EU took decisive action to decrease the unacceptably high rates of depression and suicide related to unemployment. For people with mental health problems to live full and dignified lives, access to employment is vital as it can improve income, life-satisfaction and inclusion, thus paving the way to recovery.


The recent European Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market does not sufficiently address the link between long-term unemployment and mental health. Therefore, MHE calls on the European institutions to fully integrate the mental health perspective in their current efforts to deliver on the Europe 2020 targets of improving employment rates and fighting social inclusion and poverty. MHE will shortly issue a position paper on the recommendation with concrete proposals for including the mental health perspective. In order to prevent an increase in unemployment rates, early mental health intervention in the workplace, and rehabilitation programmes are essential. Existing National best practice programmes as outlined in the recent OECD study “Fit Mind Fit Job” should be spread further with the support of the European Commission and in collaboration with civil society. Evidence-based programmes such as Individual Placement and Support should also be supported to cater for the employment needs of people who are long term unemployed because of severe mental ill health.


The recent review of the EU by the UN CRPD highlighted the unacceptably high unemployment rate of persons with psychosocial disabilities and recommended that the EU take effective actions to address this including by providing training on reasonable accommodation and accessibility in the context of employment. MHE hopes that World Mental Heath Day 2015 will help shine a light on this issue and spread the message to employers, policy-makers as well as entire community: equal employment opportunities and anti-discrimination policies are essential for people with mental health problems to live with dignity!

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