Mental health problems 'affect work of two-thirds of HE staff'

Nearly two-thirds of higher education staff say their work performance has suffered as a result of mental health problems, according to a survey

October 10, 2014

According to a poll by the Teacher Support Network Group, a charity that offers health and well-being support to people who work in education, an overwhelming majority of university employees have experienced a common mental health condition in the past two years.

Some 84 per cent of the 314 higher education staff surveyed said they suffered from stress, 67 per cent reported anxiety, and 46 per cent had depression. Sixty-two per cent said their work performance suffered, while 63 per cent said they lost confidence as a result. This led to a quarter taking time off work, with 5 per cent quitting their job, according to the survey, released in the same week as World Mental Health Day.

Julian Stanley, chief executive of the TSN Group, said: “These results show how poor mental health at work is destroying the quality of teaching in higher education.

“A significant number of staff are taking time off sick while others who remain at work demonstrate how ill health affects their confidence and performance in the lecture hall.”

More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of respondents blamed excessive workloads for their ill health, while 48 per cent cited unreasonable demands from managers. Two-fifths said rapid pace of change was a major factor.

“How can lecturers and support staff be able to focus on raising education standards and completing vital research when they are suffering as a result of unsustainable workloads and poor support from managers?” Mr Stanley asked.

“We need government and leaders in higher education to understand how important it is to ensure our teaching staff are mentally and physically fit.”

Widespread symptoms reported by those canvassed included problems sleeping (86 per cent), lack of concentration (65 per cent) and headaches (54 per cent). Just 6 per cent of the people polled said a staff well-being policy at work was always implemented at their institution.

One lecturer said of her university: “It’s just a very unhealthy place to work. I’ve got psoriatic arthritis in my joints which is rheumatic and my GP has said this could definitely be linked to stress.

“The HR department and managers often say it’s you not coping with stress rather than thinking it’s more to do with how work is organised and changes are implemented. If they informed, consulted, negotiated and involved staff, things wouldn’t escalate. It would give you time to manage stress.

“I’m always working at the weekend. I’m more tired than I used to be, it affects my concentration levels, sleeping and eating patterns. We often don’t have time for a break at work. It’s a general malaise.”

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