Public servants face depression "crisis" -

Public servants face depression “crisis”

New report claims burnout and anxiety have the public sector reeling


Canadian public servants are sad—a situation a leading mental health expert says amounts to a “public health crisis.” Public health workers, from nurses to police to bureaucrats, are suffering from depression at unprecedented rates, says Bill Wilkerson of Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health. Studies show that about 75 per cent of federal executives feel they are on the brink of burnout. Among public servants, mental health claims now account for 45 per cent of all disability claims. For his part, Wilderson blames public sector inertia and an ambiguous chain of command: “The public service is a tsunami of distractions — meetings, everything questioned, delegated, people moving … and no one is really in charge. It’s the most transient, fluid, unsettling work environment on the planet, so why wouldn’t people be anxious and in distress?” PM Stephen Harper created the Mental Health Commission to develop a national mental health strategy. But critics fear the commission will be one of the first victims of federal budget cuts.

National Post

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Public servants face depression “crisis”

  1. The second time I got cut early out of the yearly round of CRA contracts over had no education and count barely count on their fingers, my director told I just had too much potential to work at CRA. This study confirms my suspicions that the CRA hires incompetent subordinates to justify the need for more employees and more managerial positions to handle them.

  2. Oh those poor overworked civil servants.Try the private sector and you will find out what work is and not a lot of sick days and holidays.Don"t Worry Be happy there are plenty who will take your place if you just put an ad in the paper.We cannot bear to see you stressed

    • I've worked both and the private sector was far more challenging and rewarding. I returned to the public sector for the pension and benefits. I'm not sure I made the right choice. If I knew tomorrow was going to be my last day on Earth would I be happy that I knew my job was very safe and I had a pension, or would I rather have a long list of successful projects? The guaranteed pay cheque sounds wonderful I know, but if you've never experienced it imagine getting up every morning to battle a bureaucracy that you know is insurmountable and whatever you do is likely to be undone by someone around the next corner.

      • same o

    • I've worked in both public and private sector. Private sector for 10 yrs, public for 5 and counting. Let me tell you that working for the public sector is MUCH more challenging. It is a complete misconception that public sector employees are lazy and have a free ride. We are constantly challenged to do more with less. I'm not surprised by this article.

      • very true

    • depends on where you work? You have it all is people like you that adds to the stress of those who deal directly with the public..including social workers, front end employees (not the ones you dont see) mental health workers etc…public sector has some pretty good jobs also…see it for what it is..

  3. "contracts over people who had"

    "and could barely"

    I can count alright but it seems I can barely write.

    • I am surprised you weren't promoted!

      • ha ha ha

  4. Establish break rooms for the employees and force them to watch television. The escapism will make them feel better although the avoidance will not cure the problem.

  5. "The public service is a tsunami of distractions — meetings, everything questioned, delegated, people moving … and no one is really in charge."

    Poor dears. Imagine my surprised that unionized bureaucrats think they have stressful lives even though they have the cushiest jobs in Canada. I agree with above quote and would also add that at least half of the civil service could be fired tomorrow and no one would notice, they are superfluous, so they are mostly doing busy work to make themselves appear useful.

    • half of the civil service could be fired tomorrow and no one would notice, they are superfluous, so they are mostly doing busy work to make themselves appear useful. Which does not help their self esteem. <=== agreed 100% and I am a public servant !!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA

      • an honest one at that

  6. The cure for depression is Action! So get off your fannies, Civil Servants. There is nobody in the great wide world who will feel one little iota of sympathy for anyone employed by government agencies.

    • We don't need your sympathy …

      • just your tax dollars…

    • and what do you do to be so angry – depression is real..nobody wants your sympathy they want your respect…who exactly are you talking about to be so bitter? I just dont get it…Im a nurse and don not appreciate your attitude. It is tough dealing with the public.. I would imagine you have never had to deal with the likes of yourself and furthermore..depression can hit anybody, don't be so cinical.

  7. Some of you have overlooked the fact that these servants are also Nurses, who certainly do not have cushy jobs! Unions are a big part of the cause of this "public health crisis". I would be depressed too if I was run on my feet for 12-16 hour days doing the work of 2-3 people and not knowing for certain you will actually be relieved at the end of your shift. If your replacement staff for the next shift does not make it in for any reason you are stuck on duty until a replacement does arrive. Not to mention the horrendous health backlash of being flipped back and forth from days and nights between every shift set! There are also too many people too old to actually do the work but they can't be let go or replaced because they have seniority within the union. A system that was created to protect workers in a different era. Now they just provide even more red tape than what already exists in our society protecting only the unions themselves, the workers they are there to protect are far too often neglected and mistreated as a result. Unions are archaic, they need a complete overhaul of purpose and how they function or they need to no longer exist.

    • The nurses who have that much work have at least 30$/h, unlimited overtime, full health/dental coverage, extended vacation time, full pension, etc.

      Compare that to a retail manager that makes at most 30$/h, work 12-16 hours whilst being paid for 8, keeps track of 2-3 departments with 2-8 people in each.

      I have immense respect for nurses' work, having been there myself, but not for their complaining. If they ever feel like their job is too much then there's always VON or community health centers.

      • work 12-16 hours whilst being paid for 8,
        That kinda sounds like a wah wah wah too. That kinda sounds like a dumb thing to do.

      • No amount of money per hour is worth my health or sacrificing my family for. Health and family life is what nurses give up in exchange for semi-decent pay. I am not a nurse but my mother was, and now she is dead, likely due to the stress of the job. I watched her live her life under immense stress and depression, she never had the time or the energy left for her family. No wage or pension is worth that. One day she was working and the next she was in palliative care, literally! Really, how useful is a pension when you are worked to the grave?

  8. Give me a break!.. Most civil servants have no idea what stress is.Stress is associated with individual responsibility ,making decisions and being accountable for the consequences . Those things , routine in the private sector, exist only rarely in most civil service jobs. Let's face it , if civil servants are stressed it must be be from lack of self esteem.

    • "individual responsibility ,making decisions and being accountable for the consequences" ….and you think that is not the case ? tell that to teachers and nurses

    • Punes, You have been sucked in by the stigma PS have had to live with for years. Don't group us all into the same boat our politicians are in. In many cases we stick it out hoping for reform and improvements but realize after we invest many years and after it is too late to move to the private sector that change within the PS is one step forward and two steps back. Yes, I am (after 31 yrs) stressed, disappointed and at the end of my rope some days with the incompetence and stupidity I see every day usually at a higher level.

    • In the public service, you get 2 out of three. You get individual responsibility and are accountable for the consequences, but you don't get to make the decisions.

      See if you can figure out why that might be stressful.

  9. These people need to go get a job. Laying about in a un-enabled, low skill environment does bum a person out.

    They made a choice: security over uncertainty. They made a choice. They can unmake it.

  10. almost everyone I know is stressed out,anxsious and depressed. Its not just the cival servants its our society in general. We all have different reasons but the bottom line is the same.

  11. Give me a break. If the stress is too much you can quit and your job can go to someone who wants it more. There is a huge line of unemployed/underemployed people who will gladly take your cushy civil service jobs and pensions.

    Ambiguous chain of command is hard to deal with, I know firsthand from working at DND. Still the stress of working in that environment compared to the stress of sending your 100th unanswered resume, or cashing in your savings to pay the rent, or moving because you can no longer afford where you live… it could be a lot worse public servants. Suck it up.

    • That is not a simple choice for everyone. Do you think people are really that eager to join that "huge line of unemployed/underemployed people" you mentioned? Many people do not have savings to cash in on and are already at the bottom of the housing options. So simply cashing in savings and downsizing their residences is not in the cards. What do you propose those people do?

      I suggest that they need to have another job secured before they can leave their current ones, which I am sure many of these unhappy civil servants are trying to do, if they actually have the time or the energy left for it! It is not as easy as you make it sound, you have obviously had a more charmed life than the average, if you think it is that easy.

  12. One word: Privatization!

  13. I notice a lot of posters put in complete dogmatic crap for comments. Stress is not being able to do your job because the public gets whiny about something and the politicians / politically sensitive in your department put the brakes on your project(s). I've worked both public and private sector and can tell you that public sector is two things (in my experience). Its a) stressful to get a constant stream of stop / starts and political interference, and b) you're trying to do the work of a number of people as the public sector gets cut. There's simply a ton of work to be done and not enough people to do it. I enjoyed my work in the public sector as doing projects for the benefit of all is a good feeling, but the lack of control, constant start stops and overly politically sensitive managers was just too much and I quit. The private sector is a different kind of stress. Given a choice the private sector stress is preferable as you can accomplish your tasks fairly easily as compared to public sector work. Plus I get better pay in the private sector.

    • Boo Hoo, your pet project that likely benifits no one but to stroke your ego gets deep sixed. Not only that you have to listen occassionaly to the "whiny public" that pays you for your work of doubious merit. Boo Hoo again. Public service gets cut? Doing the work of three people? Buddy you must be working for a public service on another planet. Go to the private sector then is life is so onourous. Then you will see people doing three jobs and scared to death they will be the next one shown the door. Then you will see stress my friend.

  14. What, do you suppose there are no starts/stops and "office political" interference in the private sector, or that the same work is expected from fewer people as cuts are made?

    Neither public nor private sectors has a monopoly on the different sources of stress. Ultimately, the same solution is available: find another job.

  15. Yes, those poor public servants, all so busy joining Facebook groups they just don't have time for their work!

    • In my provice provincial emplyees can't go on Facebook, YouTube or any of those sites. They are internally blocked.
      A problem for government communications is that the staff do not have access to the tools that the public uses to communicate.

    • Wrong …. at least at this Department where I work ….

  16. This wouldn't be an issue if the government were run like a business. That is, management responsible to the shareholders (ie. Canadians), and the employees responsible to their managers. Period…No seniority–only just rewards. And forget the union–I've seen how they've twisted the public service into a benefits-padded love-in. If we got to look under the hood, the public service union would look a lot worse than even the Auto workers and we all know how well the auto makers are doing now that they've unburdened themselves from the unions. My old boss used to have "Indeterminate" workers or something like that, who couldn't be fired no matter how useless they got.

  17. Boo hoo hoo, did all the poor overworked, overpaid, elite, pension entitled, indexed to COA un-civil servants find out that the beleaguered non-indexed; we just go our ass kicked in the market taxpayers can NOT pay the feds all the special benefits?
    How heart rending! This will really be a bitch when they get their big fat severance reward and then contract back into the job. Yes, we the taxpaying non-indexed no pension middle class taxpayers are very much saddened by the poor mandarins having to retire at age 55 instead of age 50. wha wha

  18. As a public service employee let me say it would be far easier if the government was run like a business. As it is the public assumes that we aren't doing anything to justify our checks, and assume that we are as corrupt as the politicians. I love hearing netwits proclaim how much we get paid! Once and their is a huge difference between the people who make the new and the workers.
    As an example of the silliness, I needed a $25 software package it took 12 weeks to get it, it only took a month to get the hardware that was a thousand times the cost of the software. The reason, the government has received bad press for buying software in a kickback scheme.
    As soon as I find a job back in the private sector I'm making the move.

  19. We all make are choices, but i can tell you, if you wantr to make lots the private sector is the way to go. I took a pay cut and a fed job so i wouldnt have spend so much time away from my family. life is full of trades offs. If your not happy with the deal your getting make some hard decisions to upgrade your education or go to the ft macs of the world

  20. I worked in the Public Sector for 5 years, enough time to see how 'sick' the Culture is, but not necessarily its employees.

    There is no crises except in the minds of those workers scamming the system.

    This 'problem' is a direct result of:

    1) POOR MANAGEMENT of workers who are scamming the system.
    20 PROTECTION of workers by Unions.

    As an aside how much tax dollars is Mr. Wilkerson getting paid for his opinions?

    Taxpayers keep getting taken for a ride by Politicians and the Public Sector.

  21. "….No one is really in charge….."

    Thats right. Because they're off being Sick.

    The 'Best and Brightest' and …..'Sickest'.

  22. it is commentary like this that causes some of the stressors in pulic servants – ill informed, bitter people who have nothing better to do than complain.

    Ripley made the most accurate comment I have seen: "almost everyone I know is stressed out,anxsious and depressed. Its not just the cival servants its our society in general. We all have different reasons but the bottom line is the same."

  23. I have worked in the public sector for over 9 years (the last 8 in NB). Within my first month on the job, I was told three times by my boss to "slow down" because I was "making other people look bad" and I would "work myself out of a job". I vowed then to never have to be told that again.

    For the first five years on the job (for which I was highly overqualified, and underpaid for the position regardless of my qualifications), I was miserable. I had a desire to move up within the department, but continually watched other less qualified people get hired for better positions. In the public sector, at least in my experience, there is no such thing as a promotion – your performance, attitude, etc., in Job A has little to no bearing on your eligibility or chances of landing Job B. I was miserable because of this.


  24. I was chosen to act in a better position for about two months, during which I continually had to set my better judgment aside at the behest of my manager and director, or because of policy. In the public service, there is a policy for every conceivable event that may occur on the job. These policies do not serve to guide decision making so much as to provide a scapegoat to give the client for unethical or senseless determinations. I was given the choice of staying on as acting in the new position for marginally better pay and the stress of knowing that I was conducting business on a daily basis that I, as a taxpayer, did not approve of, or returning to my original position. It was an easy choice to make – I went back.


  25. Since then, over the past three years or so, I have completely abandoned all aspirations of moving up the ladder within government, because despite the pay increases, it only brings more stress, frustration and conflict. I was re-classified a couple of years ago to a higher pay scale (I make about $46k with a BSc and 10 years experience), which is fair for the job I do. I am reasonably happy because I do have excellent co-workers. I am in the process of weaning myself of the taxpayers teat, and will be leaving the public service for self-employment within the next 18 months.

    Wayne was correct in his assertion that you could fire almost half of the civil service without a drop in productivity, but knowing the ham-handedness by which these things are always handled, they would fire the wrong half.

  26. It's time to privatize everything. The government should not employ.

  27. The benefits and pay of the public service are overrated. The pension is good, but you pay 7% of your pay. Only the entry level professional and non-professional jobs pay above market, the rest are far below. It's not worth it to work in 15 years ago…

  28. The government should limit combined salaries and benefits of civil servants to no more than the average in the in private sector. There is no valid reason that those people who apparently work for us, should be paid more than us.

    In fact, fire them all; well, at least most of them!. Why should we have government employees at all? If the government hired contract workers for most mundane jobs, when the job was completed, so are the employees, who are then contracted to another job. No unions, no strikes. What a concept!

  29. Poor Babies !!

    Grow up an realize how fortunate you are to hold your jobs and benifits.

    Perhaps a "Time Out" will stop your petulant whining !

  30. I have been a public sector worker for close to twenty years. I wear a bullet proof vest to make sure I get home to my kids after work. I make sure your roads are safe so you can get home after work. What depresses us in the public sector is management micro-managing to ensure they keep their jobs by being "busy" and "keeping control". I dont accept new boots every year because I dont need them and they cost the tax payers (of which I too am one ) a lot of money. We sometimes have a manager for three staff. One manager could easily oversee 30 staff. SO it is this type of waste that deflates morale. The public doesnt care about what we do until they need us. Then they complain we didnt get there fast enough. Well tell that to the manager that shrunk our fleet size. Management are almost always in acting positions with little to no skill or experience to guide them. And no one sticks around long enough to make a difference. So we come to work, put on our bulletproof vests so any bullet directed our way is deflected and then we deflect the anger of the public and the ire of management. Welcome to our world. *hands you a kleenex cause Im sure you really give a damn right?*

  31. This goes beyond the debate between public, private or otherwise. Research is repeatedly showing alarming statistics about stress and burnout across ALL sectors. The research is almost becoming redundant. We already know that stress, depression, anxiety, etc. have come to epidemic proportions–the funding now needs to be directed toward increasing access to mental health resources, not more research that keeps giving us the same information over and over again while the numbers continue to climb.

    While sweeping organizational change may make for a healthier workplace–which should be a focus–there needs to also be a focus on resources available to individuals. We are living in a brave new world, dealing with a pace of constant change greater than perhaps any generation before us. Perhaps coping mechanisms have not kept stride. Whatever the cause, we cannot continue to stigmatize these mental health issues, we need to make them a focus.

    I began teaching stress-reduction workshops in an effort to reach more people and meet the obviously increasing need for such work (I have been an RMT for over 12 years). I have recently teamed up with my colleague, an MD-Psychotherapist, to facilitate a one-day retreat based on a model of attainable self-care, received exceptionally well this year among Family Physicians around Ontario, another group with alarming statistics with regard to stress and burnout.

    Workshops and programs like this and others need to be funded, there needs to be more access to OHIP-covered individual therapy and counseling, companies with EAP programs may wish to review them for their efficacy in dealing with the growing epidemic of workplace stress. Such proactive measures will certainly make a dent in curbing the otherwise inevitable increase in mental-health-related disability claims.

    Tiina Veer RMT

  32. It's Taxpayers who should be DEPRESSED by the way THEIR MONEY is MISSPENT with ZERO accountability by Politicians, Bureacrats & PS Unions.

    Watch the Video. This is happening in California (deficit $19B) and throughout the US… well as in Ontario (defict $25B) and the rest of Canada. Canada has more UNIONS per Capita than the US and the UK, so obviously the strangle-hold they have on Taxpayers is bigger:

    "Plunder!: How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation"

  33. They are trying to distract Taxpayers from the Real Crisis:

    Federal civil servant unions gird for battle over generous pensions

    The federal government has underestimated the pensions owed to civil servants, which would add about $58 billion to the federal debt, according to a new report.

    Time to Privatize and let individuals who are more 'stable' fill some of these positions instead of some of these high-maintenance, high-cost low performing softies.

  34. Almost all people is feeling depressed nowadays, maybe because of the weather.