Mental health charity Mind has called for more to be done to combat a striking national employment gap, saying hundreds of thousands of people with long-term mental health conditions fall out of employment every year – many due to a lack of appropriate workplace support.
NHS data shows that in March, the employment rate in Northumberland' s working age population was roughly 68%. But for those who were mentally ill, it stood at just 49%.
That means that the employment gap has narrowed slightly since the year before, when 54% of people with a mental illness were in employment, compared to 77% of the general population.
Across England as a whole, just 51% of people with a mental illness were employed in March, compared to 75% of the working age population.
The figures are based on the Labour Force Survey – a study of people's employment circumstances – by the Office for National Statistics.
Vicky Nash, Mind's head of policy, campaigns and public affairs, said unemployment and financial insecurity could take their toll on a person's mental health.
She added: "People with mental health problems can thrive and make a valuable contribution to the workplace, but some staff will need additional support from their employer to reach their full potential.
"All too often a lack of understanding about employers’ legal duties under the Equality Act 2010 means that many disabled staff – including those with mental health problems – aren’t given the reasonable adjustments they need to excel in their roles.
"It's also really important those out of work are supported to find work suited to their skills and aspirations if and when they are ready."
Mind is calling for employers to become legally obliged to monitor and reduce health-related pay gaps and for Statutory Sick Pay to begin earlier, to ensure ill employees do not work because they cannot afford time off.
A government spokesman said SSP waiting days protect employers from the cost of short-term absences, and that many pay above the minimum level.
He added: “We understand those with mental health conditions may need different kinds of support and we offer specialist programmes paired with personal support from our work coaches and disability employment advisers."