Mental health and economics might not be words that people associate with one another but, as described below, it is time for this to change. Let’s delve into this starting where all policy should start: with the people.
People are the backbone to society.
Forget what you are told in that companies uphold the people. It is the people that make a success of any company as either workers, purchasers or as maintainers. Take a moment and think about what would happen to the global economy as we know it if, for a period of twenty-four hours, every person went on strike and absolutely no transactions took place.
Or think a little bit smaller. For example, train fares in this country are predicted to go up another 3.2% and yet wage has stagnated. That is reason enough for us to abandon rail system until requirements are met. So let us say that everyone who used the train decided to either take a day off or simply decided not to re-purchase their yearly ticket. As a result, that company would be hit with severe, maybe even crippling, losses. The people, when organised, are a force that can change…well, everything.
People are the ultimate resource in the world of supply and demand. And yet, day by day, people are becoming more and more undervalued. Since people are the most important resource on the planet, they need to be taken care of in all regards. This includes within an area that has been steeped in stigma for decades – mental health.
The impact of mental health on the economic model is put most succinctly by the Mental Health Foundation: ‘The bare facts speak for themselves: one in four adults and one in ten children are likely to have a mental health problem in any year. This can have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people in the UK, and can affect their ability to sustain relationships, work, or just get through the day. The economic cost to the UK is £70 to £100 billion each year.’
But why is it beneficial, or even ethical, to bring up the economic cost of mental health problems? Because if there is one thing the government cares about it is improving the numbers of their successes and doing their best to gain profits, i.e. the Gross Domestic Product.
If we look at the issue of mental health from an economic standpoint and turn people into numbers at a time when the connection between government and the people seems to be at an all-time low, the argument takes on a dimension that can be more easily understood by those currently in power.
The sad truth is that when the effects of mental health are communicated on a level through lived-experience, or first-hand accounts, there is no urgency for change by the so-called “establishment”. It is sad, but they only seem to respond to the bigger picture.
The big picture is: mental health issues account for nearly half of all absenteeism and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. If this were any other disease with more physical attributes it would be treated as an epidemic. Mental health is a hidden epidemic and is given no such treatment. Instead, those suffering from mental health issues have to deal with severely underfunded and understaffed facilities and long waiting times for psychiatric help.
As a society we are keen to keep up with physical health – eating well, exercise etc – and yet we are not as keen when it comes to taking care of our emotional health. We see a problem, and we react. Mental health issues suffer instead from the tyranny of invisibility, and yet the numbers from economists consistently prove that mental health cases make up the majority of illness related to work.
The evidence for change is plentiful. After all “well evidenced information is vital to motivate people to advocate for the changes that can make a difference.” The government needs to take the information within its grasp and call for a new change.
Challenging mental health issues is not just the right thing to do, it is an investment. For the people to get the help they deserve, they need to be seen as an asset and a resource. After all, people are the most important resource. But more importantly, they are human beings