RCPsych responds to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions' comments on mental health

Statement / comment
21 March 2024

In an article in the Telegraph this morning (21 March 2024) titled Mental health culture has gone too far the Rt Hon Mel Stride MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, suggested people were being signed off too easily for mental health conditions.

In response, Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: 

 “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.

“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 and 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.”

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