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A journalist with 13 years of experience on trade publications covering construction, local government, property, pubs, and transport.
September 13, 2017

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Mental health

USDAW: Better mental health awareness needed to tackle stigma

John Hannett, USDAWManufacturing, transport, retail and other shopworkers need greater awareness of mental health issues to reduce the stigma and ‘normalise’ conversations, a trade union leader has said.

General secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), John Hannett, made the comments while speaking at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at the Brighton Centre.

Sharing best practice

Hannett called on the TUC to facilitate the sharing of best practice and campaigning strategies as well as support unions in running mental health awareness campaigns that engage members and employers.

He said: ” USDAW’s experience has show that mental health is an issue of growing important to union members.

“In the UK, around 12 million people see their GP about a mental health problem every year. But it continues to be a hidden disability that is rarely spoken about.

“Therefore, it should be no surprise that recent TUC research on the subject has shown 75% of people with a long-term mental health condition are not at work.

Important Safeguards

Hannett also mentioned how the trade union movement had won ‘important safeguards’ for people suffering from mental health issues in the workplace, especially with regards to the Equality Act.

He said: “If depression or anxiety is revealed as the true cause of an absense, the Equality Act can provide protections at work, and place responsibilities on employers to make reasonable adjustments.

“However, this can only happen if members feel able to openly report mental health conditions.

Campaign material

He also mentioned how the union was running ‘significant campaign activity’ around mental health awareness, and was taking a ‘proactive approach’ to the issue.

He said: “Our campaign aims to remove the stigma around mental health, signpost people to relevant services for advice, and normalise conversations with managers around the issue.”

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