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Mental health is an increasingly important issue in the current cost of living crisis, says Usdaw

Date: 09 September 2014 Paddy Lillis, Usdaw’s Deputy General Secretary, has this afternoon at the Trades Union Congress in Liverpool highlighted the role of trade union and workplace reps in supporting members suffering mental health issues.

Paddy Lillis said: ‘Our movement has long recognised that mental health is a trade union issue, but it is fast becoming a priority. Evidence shows that since the onset of austerity there's been a surge in the numbers of people diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

‘There has been a four-fold increase in the number of people reporting symptoms and seeking help. This has been reflected in an increase in the numbers of enquiries we receive from members struggling to cope, together with a growing demand for advice and guidance from reps doing their level best to support members with mental health problems in the workplace.

‘The Coalition's approach to cutting the deficit has led to cuts and caps to in-work benefits, a rise in the cost of living, a fall in the value of wages, shorter working hours and increased redundancies. Industry-wide cuts to budgets and staffing levels have left members feeling overstretched, overworked and undervalued.

‘Unions have a key role to play tackling the stigma that surrounds mental health, not least because stigma stops members coming forward and talking to us at an early stage. This can lead to members getting caught up in disciplinary procedures and facing action that could and should have been avoided.

‘We also have a key role to play ensuring our members have a say in what they do at work, so they can influence the decisions that affect them. Having control over what happens in your life has been shown to improve mental health and well-being and trade unions are vital in terms of giving members that control.’

Notes for Editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 432,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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