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Poor mental health forcing half of public sector workers to take time off

Public sector workers take more time off due to issues with mental health than their private sector counterparts, a leading charity has today stated.

In a survey conducted by mental health organisation Mind, 12,000 workers across the public and private sector were asked about their experience with mental health in the office.

The results show that in the public sector there are more people suffering from poor mental health, and poor support networks for those who decide to speak out.

Around half (48%) of public sector respondents said they had taken time off because of their mental health – more than private workers, where less than a third (32%) said they had taken time off.

The survey also found that less than half (49%) of public sector workers felt supported when they disclosed they had a problem. The figure in the private sector was higher, as 61% said they felt supported.

However, Mind did find that the public sector was more open than the private sector as 90% of workers said they disclosed their problem with their employer, compared to 80% in the private sector. Public sector workers were also more likely to talk about their problems with colleagues, 15% saying they would disclose their issue compared with only 9% in private sector.

This has led the charity to call on the government to make mental health in the workplace a key priority. “Mental health is one of the biggest domestic issues facing the next government,” said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind. “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.”

Farmer also highlighted that a vital part of changing the lives of people with mental health problems was 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,” he added. “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.”

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