Public Service is a Sacrifice: Mental Health Problems in the Workplace
When joining the workforce in Canberra, there is usually one major decision, public service or private sector? While there are pros and cons to both, it seems that mental health concerns may be a large con to taking a public service job.
There are many pros to working in public service. Knowing that you are helping serve your community, country, and neighbors can build a sense of personal satisfaction. Pride and ownership in the community are all associated in working as a public servant and can actually help improve your mental health. Unfortunately recent numbers are indicating there may be larger problems lurking under the surface for employees serving their community.
Numbers indicate that government employees are taking a staggering three more weeks of unscheduled absences each year. Most of these absences are sickies. Is the flu just that more contagious in government buildings? Most likely not, the problem is bigger. Public servants are lodging psychological claims at a staggering 5 times the rate of their equals working in the private sector (Canberra Times). What is even more shocking is that no one seems to understand why there is such a shocking difference.
Many problems that exist for public servants in the work place are rooted in their employers not having the ability or flexibility to address specific concerns. Perhaps struggles with their supervisors being unable to assign the appropriate amount of work, or having to assign work that may fall out of their job description is contributing to these health concerns. Stress in the workplace can trigger anxiety and depressive episodes. For many people their work and home life are so intertwined that it is often hard to pinpoint specific causes, which makes finding a solution difficult.
There does seem to be hope on the horizon for public servants, as the number of worker’s compensation claims decreased in 2013-2014 after years of massive increases. Even though the number has begun to decrease, the Bureaucrats themselves are unsure of what has caused the decrease, which shows that there isn’t an effective campaign in place to help improve the mental health and work environment of public servants. Perhaps things will continue to improve for the public sector. One theory on the increase of mental health claims is the increase of awareness and social acceptability of discussing mental health issues. If this is the case, and workers are feeling more comfortable bringing to light their struggles, perhaps there is more to the story then just the numbers, but only time will tell.
Until then, there is another large looming factor that needs to be considered when looking at jobs in the public and private sector, your health. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concerns that you believe are stemming from your workplace, make an appointment with a psychologist to discuss your concerns and develop strategies to help improve your experience.
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