Intended for healthcare professionals


Lack of mental health support in the public sector

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 06 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2731
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers


A survey by the mental health charity Mind has found that public sector workers are less likely than their private sector counterparts to feel supported when they disclose mental health problems

Public and private

Mind found a higher prevalence of mental health problems in the public sector, as well as a lack of available support. The UK public sector employs over 5.4 million people, and more than a fifth of these (around 1.2 million) work in the NHS. The charity surveyed 5746 public sector employees and 7191 private sector employees.


Public sector workers were more likely than their peers in the private sector to say that their mental health was poor (15% versus 9%) and more likely to say that they had felt anxious at work on several occasions over the past month (53% versus 43%).

Sick days

Public sector employees said that, on average, they took three days’ sick leave in the past year because of their mental health, whereas workers in the private sector took less than a day. Almost half (48%) of public sector workers but 32% of the private sector workforce have had time off because of their mental health.


When taking time off for mental health reasons, 69% of public sector workers were honest about the reason for needing time off, compared with 59% of private sector staff. Over a third (38%) of public sector employees and 29% in the private sector said that the workplace culture allowed staff to be open about mental health problems.


Public sector workers were more likely to disclose a mental health problem, but when they did so support wasn’t always available, the survey found. Half (49%) of public sector employees said that they felt supported when they disclosed mental health problems, whereas the proportion in the private sector was 61%.