The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Mental health issues higher in public sector workers

Support for mental health worse in public sector

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 01 June 2017

People who work for the public sector including the NHS are more likely to seek help for mental health issues than workers in the private sector, concludes a survey issued today by charity Mind.

However, the level of support given in the public sector is less than that offered to private sector employees.

Mind carried out an online survey of 15,022 employees, of which 5,746 worked in the public sector, 7,191 worked in the private sector, and the remainder worked in the third sector.

The UK public sector employs more than 5.4 million people, almost 3 million of whom are employed by central government alone.

Mind’s survey found that public sector workers were more likely to say their mental health was poor than their peers in the private sector (15% versus 9%), and far more likely to say they had felt anxious at work on several occasions over the last month (53% compared to 43%).

Public sector survey respondents said that, on average, 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.

Almost half (48%) of public sector workers had had time off because of their mental health, compared with less than a third (32%) of the private sector workforce.

Public sector workers were more likely to disclose that they had a mental health problem (90% versus 80% in the private sector), were more likely to be honest about the reason for needing time off (69% versus 59%), and more likely to report that the workplace culture made it possible for people to speak openly about their mental health (38% versus 29%).

However, when public sector employees were honest and admitted mental health problems, less than half (49%) of them said they felt supported, compared with 61% of staff from the private sector.

Mind called on the next government to make mental health in the workplace a key priority.

Its chief executive Paul Farmer said: “Mental health is one of the biggest domestic issues facing the next government. More people than ever are speaking out about mental health and demanding change.

“A vital part of changing the lives of people with mental health problems is to tackle the culture of fear and silence in the workplace that stops people opening up about what they are experiencing.

“This data shows that the public sector in particular is making progress here. But it’s also vital that when people do speak out they get the right help and support at the right time. It’s clear there is still a long way to go in both the public and private sector to address the gap between people asking for support and actually getting what they need.”

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470