A survey by the mental health charity Mind has found that mental health support in the public sector is far worse than in the private sector, with a survey of over 12,000 employees revealing a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector and a lack of vital support.
The charity has urged the next government to make mental health in the workplace “a top priority”, warning “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”.
There are currently around 5.4 million people employed in the public sector, including 3 million people employed by central government.
Mind’s survey found that public sector workers were over a third more likely to suffer poor mental health than those working in the private sector.
The survey also found that 53% of public sector workers felt anxious at work on several occasions over the last month, compared to 43% in the private sector.
Almost half (48%) or public sector workers surveyed by Mind admitted to having to take time off work due to mental health issues, compared to 32% in the private sector.
Public sector workers were more likely to disclose a mental health problem and felt more comfortable in speaking about their issues, but less that half (49%) felt supported when they did so. This compares to 61% in the private sector.
Mind is calling on the next government to promote, recognise and share effective in-work solutions for employers, and initiatives like Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index.
They also say the next government must commit to implementing the recommendations contained within Independent Mental Health and Employers Review, which it says would have a positive impact in supporting employers to drive forward changes in the workplace to better support employees.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, 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. As a nation our expectations for better mental health for all are higher than ever and the next government must rise to this challenge.
“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.
“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.
“The current government funded Mind to put in place support for emergency services staff, through our Blue Light programme, but it is clear that workplace wellbeing needs to be a priority throughout the public sector.
“We must see the next government commit to making change, as government and also as an employer themselves.”