A new mental health “action plan” is to be launched in an effort to tackle the reasons for psychological absences among city council staff.
A statistic in the report to the council’s staff governance committee reveals that in 2016/17, a shocking 35,342 people in Aberdeen were prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression or psychosis – equivalent to 15.4% of the population.
The proportion has increased significantly in recent years, up from 12.5% in 2009/10.
Around 8.3% of the council’s sickness absences are due to psychological reasons.
Unions have previously raised fears that a controversial restructuring of the authority may be worsening the problem, though the report notes that existing strategies are slowly reducing the absence rate.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
In May last year, it was revealed that stressed council staff called in sick with psychological illness almost 80 times in February of that year.
The authority stressed that a spike was often expected in darker winter months and that there were several thousand workers employed by the council.
Now as part of the new action plan, the council will seek earlier intervention, work to improve communication with staff and offer more support for those affected by psychological conditions.
The report reads: “The council does already have in place a range of support measures to assist employees experiencing mental health problems, as well as preventative measures, which are hoped to be contributing to the slight decrease in the number of days of absence due to psychological reasons over 2017/18.
“In addition, an aspiration to improve engagement in relation to mental health in the workplace was posted on the internal ‘ideas hub’ by a member of staff.
“A working group has since been formed which includes staff members with a passion and interest in improving this area alongside members of the people and organisation team.
“The draft mental health action plan shows organisational commitment and intent on key theme areas to further support a mentally healthy workplace.”
Committee vice convener Ryan Houghton said: “I welcome the progress already made and the publication of this plan.
“Working together with partners, mental health in the workplace is something we take very seriously.
“The work towards this so far is to be commended.”