Public sector workers suffer high rate of mental health issues

1 Jun 17

Mental health issues lead almost half of public sector workers to take sick days compared to just 32% of private sector workers, a study has found.

The charity Mind has urged the government to make mental health in the public sector a top priority after a survey of 12,000 employees across the public and private sector showed state workers experienced more problems than other their private sector counterparts.

Findings from the survey published today show a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector, as well as a lack of support available when people do speak up.

Currently 5.4m people work in the public sector, nearly 3m are employed by central government alone.

According to the responses Mind received 15% of public sector workers said their mental health was poor, compared to just 9% of their peers in the private sector.

Public sector workers are also more likely to say they have felt anxious at work on several occasions over the last month 53% compared to 43% for those in the private sector.

On average public sector workers said they had taken nearly three days off sick in the last year because of their mental health, compared to just under one day on average for workers in the private sector.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said mental health is one of the biggest domestic issues facing the next government.

He urged whoever won the general election to tackle the culture of fear and silence in the workplace that stops some people opening up about issues they are experiencing.

Farmer added: “By promoting wellbeing for all staff, tackling the causes of work-related mental health problems and supporting staff who are experiencing mental health problems, organisations can help keep people at work and create mentally healthy workplaces where people are supported to perform at their best.”

Although the survey showed a worrying number of mental health concerns within the public sector, it recognises that there was more awareness of the issues among government employees.

According to Mind, the results show that public sector workers are more likely to disclose that they have a mental health problem and are more likely to be up front about it if they do take time off because of their mental health because the workplace culture makes it possible for people to speak openly about their mental health.

However, when they do open up, support isn’t always forthcoming. Only 49% of people said they felt supported when they disclosed mental health problems, compared with 61% in the private sector.

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