Next government must make mental health a top priority
A major survey by the mental health charity Mind has revealed that workplace wellbeing support is worse in the public sector than in the private sector. The charity surveyed over 12,000 employees across the public and private sectors and found a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector, as well as a lack of support available when people do speak up.
The UK public sector employs over 5.4m people, almost 3m of whom are employed by central government alone.
Mind’s survey found that public sector workers were over a third more likely to say their mental health was poor than their peers in the private sector (15 per cent versus 9 per cent), and far more likely to say they have felt anxious at work on several occasions over the last month (53 per cent compared to 43 per cent).
The impact on the sector is significant. 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 per cent) of public sector workers have had time off because of their mental health, compared with less than a third (32 per cent) of the private sector workforce.
The survey indicates that the sector as a whole is more aware of the problem than the private sector. The results show that public sector workers are more likely to disclose that they have a mental health problem, are more likely to be up front about it if they do take time off because of their mental health and are more likely to report that 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. Less than half (49 per cent) of people said they felt supported when they disclosed mental health problems, compared with three in five (61 per cent) in the private sector.
Mind is calling on the next government to make mental health in the workplace a key priority.
To do this, they want to see the next government promote, recognise and share effective in-work solutions for employers, including wellbeing initiatives and Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index, support the continuation of the Independent Mental Health and Employers Review and commit to implementing the recommendations which will have a positive impact in supporting employers to be a full partner in driving this change.
Paul Farmer, CEO 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.”