At least one in two UK academics have had depression, anxiety or other stress-related mental health problems – one of the highest rates in any sector.
That was the message from a nationwide conference lead by Brunel University London social work lecturer Vida Douglas.
“It’s important we start addressing the health and wellbeing of all staff, not just from within our own institutions, but across the wider sector”.
Stress levels among academics are higher than for people working in the NHS and police, heard staff from 40 UK universities gathered at London MET.
“There needs to be a wellbeing policy in Higher Education,” said Vida.
Fifty-five per cent of academics had symptoms including depression, sleep problems and cognitive impairment, said Professor Gail Kinman. The occupational health and psychology professor’s 2016 research showed only 23 per cent of NHS staff report similar difficulties, while the figures for local authority staff and police were 42 per cent and 47 per cent respectively.
The shrinking student-to-staff ratio and less control over their working environment are two possible explanations, said the University of Bedfordshire’s Prof Kinman.
Attention to student mental health broadened to staff after the suicide of Cardiff University lecturer Dr Malcolm Anderson who had complained about workload.
“Many universities are taking staff well-being seriously,” said Brunel education lecturer, Vida. “It is often just focused on levels of absenteeism, rather than different areas of occupational health”.
Her plan now is to set up a forum of people working in higher education to thrash out how to tackle the issue. “We are looking at the role organisations play in promoting and supporting staff wellbeing across the sector. We need to see a real commitment to working towards a new culture.”
If you’re struggling, staff at Brunel have access to a free confidential advice and professional counselling 24/7. Call 0808 168 2143 or visit www.carefirst-lifestyle.co.uk Quote ‘brunel’ as your username and ‘employee’ for your password.
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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