AccessEAP blog

Government Employees Increasingly Seeking Mental Health Support


Government workers are increasingly likely to personally reach out for help with a range of mental wellbeing issues according a review of referrals made between 2013 and 2018 by public administration professionals

Up 14 per cent in this sector, self-referrals for mental wellbeing services make up almost three quarters (73%) of cases. Conversely, referrals by supervisors and managers (8%), HR (5%) and colleagues (5%) were collectively down by 9%.

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP says: “Government workers are familiar with the Employee Assistance support provided by their organisation and so utilisation has always been higher in the public sector. We have seen an increase in employees accessing the service due to ongoing changes occurring in the public sector. There are mergers with government departments and restructures, making the rate of these changes more rapid and frequent than before. People who go through this process face levels of uncertainty and anxiety and require support. Change also increases tension between employees leading to increase in conflict within organisations.”

Our data shows that in 2018, anxiety is the leading mental health concern for these workers, affecting almost one in three (31%), followed by relationships with partners (14%) and depression (10%). However, requests for help with depression have dropped by 4% since 2013, making way for an 8% rise in stress management, which only made the list of concerns in 2015, when it accounted for 4% of referrals from this sector.

In the workplace, stress has remained a constant as the leading request for help, affecting 15% of Governmental workers. Another prevalent issue is workplace conflict which has maintained a similar level. In 2013 conflict with managers (9%) overshadowed that with colleagues (6%), however this trend has balanced, as conflict with managers and colleagues now sits at 8% each.

Government jobs are also prone to a specific issue, organisational change. The effect of this can be seen in 2017 after the generational election a year prior, with requests for this specific issue rising by 4% year on year to 9% and then dropping off to 6% in 2018.

Employers and HR managers should continue to empower employees to lean on their EAP provider or other support systems, and remain ever-vigilant for the current issues affecting the workplace to ensure productivity and reduce attrition.

While workplace stressors may be changing, its apparent from the data that the effects are relatively similar, with the same impacts on output. Most of our public administration clients said they struggled with concentration (30%), felt less productive (26%) and had difficulty making decisions (13%), which were all prevalent five years ago. It’s clear how one or all three of these would impact an employee’s work and their morale, in fact over one in 10 (13%) were considering resigning from their job.

We’re encouraged to see that Governmental employees are increasingly aware of available support and able to seek help. It’s important that employers and HR managers continue to raise awareness of relevant resources, including EAPs and what they offer.

Here Marcela shares her top five tips that employers and HR managers can provide to staff to help combat stress, the leading cause of workplace issues for governmental workers.

Accept change as a part of life

Most days require us to adapt to what we are doing to accommodate changing deadlines, new opportunities and unexpected events. When this happens, take stock of your new situation, prioritise your new workload and flag to your team anything that needs more time to complete.

Take five for mindfulness

This is where you let your frantic thinking be put aside without making any judgements. Try this; pause for a moment and take stock of your surroundings, name five things you can see, five things you can hear and five that are in contact with your body.

Communicate, communicate

Employees want to know what is happening or they think the worst. People need to know why a change is happening and what it involves. Acknowledge that change is challenging but show that you believe in your employees, that they will get through this period. Often managers themselves do not have any certainty, making it hard to support others. Acknowledge this and focus on one thing at a time.

Don’t dwell on that which you cannot control

Often it is easy to focus on the past, what it was like and what worked. The change does not mean that the past wasn’t working, it means that change is necessary to survive in today’s world. Focus on small steps or tasks which are in your control, this gives a sense of achievement. You cannot prevent or stop change so give attention to that within your control or ability to influence.

Identify your stressors

Make a list of events or situations that sap your mental strength and tactics you have used to address them and how well they work. Use them as an opportunity to create your own toolbox of stress relief actions.