According to the Thriving at Work report, published today, abut 300,000 with long term mental health problems lose their jobs every year. The annual cost to the UK economy of poor mental health is £99bn, of which about £42bn is borne by employers.

Compiled by Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner and former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson  the report also showed that human health is still a taboo topic in the workplace.  “The picture is that there are very significant numbers of people in work with mental health problems but there are significant numbers who are not,” he told The Guardian.

“We think that the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.”

I believe that there is a solution to this and other problems --- and that is to place therapy at the hub of our communities: here’s how.

Recent studies have shown that the dispensing of anti-depressants is on the increase.  People seem to be heading to a GP after years of avoiding seeking help. In my view, medication is not always the answer to depression even though clearly it has helped many people and saved many lives.

Anti-depressants don’t work for everyone. They can take months to kick in. They treat the symptoms but not the causes. People never really confront what has made them ill in the first place.  In my view, working to find out what the is at the root of our depression is key to achieving a sustainable recovery with increased self-awareness.

So, what to do?

  • Find someone to talk to. Not easy when we are in the blackness of depression. Yet sometimes all that’s needed is for someone to listen and for us to be believed. All our journeys are different and each one is equally important.
  • Why not take precautions for our mental health just as we are advised to take care of our physical health? We can take steps to protect our minds – don’t try too hard, expect less, challenge our thinking.
  • Accept what we can’t change. Go on a holiday, nurture friendships, start a hobby. Try self-expression like art or writing. A short walk is good for starters.
  • Let’s bring therapy to the community. There is help within a very short distance of where you are now; and if the government won’t or can’t provide support, then it’s down to us to do our bit. Consider linking GP surgeries with the Samaritans, Mind and others. Therapists could consider offering therapy at reduced rates for those who need it. Talk about your mental health and your experience of therapy to others. Get the word out. 

Journalist and author Mark Rice-Oxley recommends a way of building a partnership in the local community along with voluntary systems in order to provide resources for those who need it.  In the dark underworld of depression (and the private world of therapy) we can join forces and provide a listening space by those who know what depression feels like. Sounds like a good idea.

When loneliness in the UK is at an all time high, face-to-face human interaction is vital; an hour’s talk rather than a box of pills, could prove to be the way ahead to less isolation, more community connection and support. Make that most private of activities – therapy -  a more public encounter, supporting those who are experiencing issues with their depression. 

For further reading on depression and recovery Mark Rice-Oxley’s book on ‘Underneath the Lemon Tree’ is a good place to start.