Campaigning public services union, UNISON Cymru Wales, will today (Tuesday), convene a landmark conference to discuss what mental health services in Wales should look like in the future and how employers can work with trades unions to better support affected employees.

The first conference of its kind ever held by a trades union in Wales, will take place in the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay on World Mental Health Day. An audience of one hundred public service workers and experts will hear from Cabinet Secretary for health, well-being and sport, Vaughan Gething AM, leading mental health charity, Mind Cymru and UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis. Assembly Member Dawn Bowden is sponsoring the event.

UNISON will publicise how it has been campaigning in workplaces across Wales to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health. It is running dedicated training courses to develop mental health champions who are able to help colleagues by directing them to the best available help and support.

Carmen Bezzina, UNISON lead organiser for mental health, said,

“Poor mental health is wreaking a terrible cost on the people of Wales, their families and the Welsh economy. One in four people will be affected at some stage in their life. It is often caused by difficult situations in the workplace. We know too, severe spending cuts have harmed people and there is a direct link between UK government policy and incidence of mental health problems.

“UNISON has convened this conference to raise the importance of employers working with trades unions to help support employees and tackle the prejudice that surrounds mental health.”

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, said,

“With such a broad range of factors affecting our health and well-being, it is clear that the NHS alone cannot make us the healthy nation that we all want. It requires all of us to engage in promoting good health and well-being – individuals, communities, schools, work places, unions and many others have a role to play. I am delighted to recognise the contribution that UNISON Cymru is making to improve the mental health of workers.

“The Welsh Government recognises the important contribution that the workplace can make to improving mental health. This is highlighted in our Prosperity for All Strategy which sets out our ambition to build a Wales that is healthy and active, prosperous and secure, ambitious and learning and united and connected.”

Sara Moseley, Director Mind Cymru, said,

“Mental health problems in Wales cost us an astounding £7.2billion a year, made up of a £1bn cost to the NHS, over £2.5bn in lost economic activity and nearly £3.5bn in the loss of quality of life for those experiencing mental health problems. Promoting good mental health could decrease those figures. It’s wonderful to see UNISON taking a lead on such an important matter.”