Today is World Mental Health Day. I want to take the opportunity to talk about mental health and wellbeing in our community as it’s an issue that matters to us all.
It’s likely that most of us have either been directly affected by mental health problems or know a friend, family member or colleague who has been. I’m really pleased to see the progress that has been made in my lifetime towards us being able to discuss mental health in the same way we talk about physical health. Mental health issues are health issues and should be regarded as such. Education and awareness days like this one can play an important role in shaping the conversations we have.
The University Executive Board has committed to making wellbeing and mental health a priority for our University.
So, what does this mean in practice?
As you may know, the University’s Health & Wellbeing Policy sets out the University’s commitment and arrangements for supporting the health and wellbeing of staff and students.
The last two years have seen us invest significantly in student wellbeing service and use of the Employee Assistance Programme for staff. However, we recognise that growing pressures on both students and staff can make life difficult at times. That is why we have been looking at other steps to address this issue.
We are setting up a Health and Wellbeing Steering Group alongside the Students’ Union (SU), which I will chair.
This will have student, staff and trades union representation as well as expertise drawn from different services across the University. The group will oversee the development of a health and wellbeing action plan which will include consideration of a wide variety of issues, including mental health.
In addition, we have decided to invest in a professionally qualified Health and Wellbeing Manager who will work on the implementation of this plan and focus on the issues particularly affecting University staff. We hope to recruit to this role very soon.
On a personal note, I – along with several other members of the senior management team – will be attending a Mental Health First Aid session today as part of our commitment to deepening our understanding of mental health.
Whether this affects you directly or affects any member of our community with whom you have contact, there are occasions when people need help. This is not a problem unique to this University, but affects the sector as a whole as recognised by initiatives such as #stepchange.
Of course, mental health problems can be complex, and are often not confined to the workplace. There will be many occasions when, although we will be able to provide support, the longer-term solutions will lie in the hands of health professionals.
However, the wellbeing of all members of our community is an important issue for everyone at the University. My hope is that with the right support we can do our best for all who work and study here to fulfil their potential.
Professor Bernie Morley
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
And Acting Vice-Chancellor