In support of World Mental Health Day, on Monday 10 October 2022 jobs.ac.uk hosted a webinar in partnership with Advance HE, ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing: HE Minds Matter’ focusing on mental health and wellbeing in HE. Watch the webinar recording to see Dr Helen Webster and our panellists discuss this complex topic and help us what’s impacting mental health among HE staff, and what we can do as institutions and individuals to support our wellbeing. Please see a copy of the webinar transcript
Is there a link between staff mental health and the lack of staff promotions in many higher education roles?
Liz Morrish and Kalimah Ibrahiim delved deep into the way UK universities structure their staff performance and management. Both Liz and Kalimah pointed out how academics should try to manage their expectations, do a good job in the best way they know how, and be a supportive colleague. They also discussed utilising techniques that the academic finds rewarding, rather than only looking at being promoted.
Are there any recommendations for reducing stress levels during the PhD journey?
Kalimah Ibrahiim and Petra Boyton both shared tips on dealing with stress levels from their experience of going through the PhD journey:
- Speak to your tutors and seek help early in the process
- Engage in meaningful activities. Anything that you like doing which is a healthy distraction
- Spend time with friends and family, and do not neglect those areas of your life
How do I negotiate workload in the face of work-related mental health issues?
Allan Laville spoke about his own experience by going through the formal process of occupational health to negotiate workload. Allan continued on to say how it’s imperative to speak to someone you feel safe with or who will listen. He also said you should try to disclose mental health difficulties or a disability and push for written evidence to support any adjustments to your work so it happens once the arrangements are agreed upon.
Liz Morrish went on to mention how you should communicate with the head of your department if you’re struggling with the workload. Talk with colleagues if your department workload model doesn’t reflect how long the tasks take, and conduct some collective action i.e., research other departments across your university and compare their workload model with yours.
How can I prevent myself from feeling burnout when it comes to stressful periods in HE?
Allan Laville and Petra Boyton made some key notes on how leaders should regularly review the processes that are in place and ensure the environment is inclusive by opening a safe space for staff to provide that feedback. In terms of burnout, staff should put some boundaries in place i.e., turning emails off and not looking at them until you’re back at work and taking regular breaks as you can get into the temptation of overworking to catch up, this is where breaks are necessary.
What measures can I take as an academic to promote or support mental health awareness?
Liz Morrish started by suggesting some formal measures such as occupational health. She went on to explain how occupational health can make recommendations for adjustments to workloads and how to bring you back into the workplace, particularly after a sickness absence.
Kalimah Ibrahiim also made a valid case for creating a culture where we have conversations about mental health awareness, unmanageable workloads, and counselling services with staff and senior leadership.
How can I support the mental health of my team of academics and suggest free resources that I can recommend to others?
Allan Laville recommends using evidence-based resources websites such as Mental Health UK or looking at your university’s internal website for training, support supervision, psychological first aid, and how to become an ally or an active bystander.
Please could you cover self-help tips to cope with feeling anxious in the workplace after interacting with colleagues?
Kalimah suggested thinking about the reason for the anxiety. Is it your interaction with the colleague or is it an uncomfortable conversation for yourself? Or is it uncomfortable for the colleague? Or is it that you don’t have a relationship where you can be open and honest? As an ECR, the work you’re doing is very important and you’re adding relevance to the research base.
What online support groups are available for academics and how can I register for them?
Allan Laville talked about how it all depends on the type of support groups you’re looking for. i.e., underlined by psychotherapeutic principles vs joining an informal group where you can discuss mental health. In Allan’s experience, he has found it much more useful to speak to others that have faced similar types of pressures that you may be facing.
How can university staff who are disabled or carers be better supported?
Allan Laville advised colleagues who have been promoted within their roles and have disabilities to become mentors for those colleagues that identify as disabled. They can also provide guidance on what’s required to be promoted based on their journey to promotion.
In addition, Kalimah Ibrahiim suggested getting access to occupational health services through work as this could be a helpful way to open up and get support.
Watch the full webinar recording for more information on any of the topics covered. If you would like to learn more about mental health and well-being at work, check out our articles Mental Health Awareness for Managers and The balancing act – how to keep your team happy and motivated.