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Ensuring good mental health in the public sector

Written by Caroline.Newson on

as part of #WorldMentalHealthDay we are offering our advice on how to keep staff mentally healthy in the public sector, without plunging into the minimal budget.

Illustration of heart symbol with brain in centre

Whilst working with leading UK mental health charity Together and several public-sector businesses, we are regularly building a detailed understanding of both mental health and the public

sector. Which is why as part of #WorldMentalHealthDay we are offering our advice on how to keep staff mentally healthy in the public sector, without plunging into the minimal budget.

A few months ago, a report by mental health organisation, Mind, suggested that public sector employees were a third more likely to have negative mental health experiences than their peers in the private sector. This surprised us, but it got the whole team here thinking…

We understand that budget cuts and shortage of staff can sometimes put pressure on the support that is readily available in the public sector for mental health. However, the below solutions cost time, but no large budget, no mental health specialist is required – and just a commitment to better your staff’s wellbeing.

So, what’re the best ways you can support your employees with their mental health in mind?

Think About Yourself

Before you go back to work and consider your employees, you need to evaluate your own mental well-being. Are you doing enough to care for yourself? You’re the manager, the owner, the chief executive – you’re not a worker. It’s important that you give yourself enough time to care for yourself.

It’s impossible to be responsible for your staff’s mental health if your own mental health isn’t in a good condition.


It’s a very common issue that many chief executives and managers consider the team in its entirety.

Each individual member of staff has their own personal ‘needs’. Some people require certainty, others require significance, other people crave variety – knowing which staff members have which ‘needs’ when dealing with them puts managers at a huge advantage. Think of it as a prospective contract – once you know, psychologically, what they want, it becomes easy to sell. This should be the same approach with staff, getting to know them all as individuals and reciprocate their method of communication will help you support your employees, and vice versa.

There are six personality ‘needs’ in general that people tend to lean towards, these are the following:

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Significance
  • Love and Connection
  • Growth
  • Contribution.

The difficult thing is working out what ‘needs’ each member of your workforce has, and then applying your strategies to these individuals.

You can read more about the six core human ‘needs’ in an in-depth article by philanthropist Tony Robbins.


This word means more than one would possibly think. One thing that was highlighted in the Mind research is that despite more than 90% of employees in public sector disclosed their issues to their employer, more than private sector workers. Despite what you may assume, more private sector workers felt supported, despite disclosing less to employers.

Support in the public sector can be achieved easily through minor investments in current staff. As a manager, you should agree that it’s vital to train and develop staff, which is why training one member of each department to deal with mental health problems could mean a huge increase in staff satisfaction as it allows them to channel their issues to one designated person.

Similarly, creating a hub where staff can go and vent their issues to someone who is trained may be a solution, as well as creating an anonymous support system on the organisation’s Intranet. This way you can make sure your staff feel supported and valued.

Mind offer some training and development programmes for numerous organisations.

On Reflection

As a manager of a public-sector organisation it’s important to realise that your internal customers are sometimes far more vital in the running of things than those who are external customers. Organisations that continuously invest in building a solid support network are more likely to significantly improve their staff retention rate and productivity across the board. This links in with mental health costing UK business a total of £29bn in lost revenue and productivity.

So, despite public sector budget cuts and staff redundancies, it’s still essential to keep the well being of employees as a priority, as everything else will fall nicely into place.

UPDATE: On the 26th of October 2017, a report by the government released by Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health revealed that more than 300,000 employees in the UK have left their jobs due to poor mental health support. This has a lasting economic effect, costing UK business between £74 billion and £99 billion each year. Find the full report here: Thriving at work report