Academics “struggling” to respond to student mental health
Responding to student mental health problems is now an “inevitable part” of the job for many university academics, a new report has claimed.
The report by the charity Student Minds warns that many academics are unsure of their boundaries and are “struggling” to respond effectively to students’ mental health issues.
Researchers interviewed 52 academics across five universities for the report.
According to the document, many of them feel their role in terms of responding to student mental health is “ambiguous and unclear” and in the absence of professional training or support, they are often left to draw from personal experience.
Lack of provision
It also warns student services are often unable to help, because of a lack of provision or ineffective support.
The report calls for a “significant culture shift” in British universities with better support structures for both academics and students.
In particular, it recommends that staff be equipped with the skills and resources to respond to student mental health appropriately and maintain boundaries.
It also states that universities must recognise the “unavoidable” role academics are now playing and create “open spaces for discussion and learning”.
“This research throws light on how academics are a vital, but often unrecognised part of the support available to students at universities,” said Student Minds chief executive, Rosie Tressler.
“It’s inevitable that students will reach out to whoever their feel comfortable with, so to ensure that student support needs are met, institutions must support academics to have roles with clear boundaries and good relationships with their student services, backed on a strategic level though a whole university approach to student mental health and wellbeing.”
One of the report authors, Gather Hughes, added: “For me personally, there are four key lessons from this report; we need to be clear about what we expect of the academic role, we need to recognise that signposting is a complex task, we need closer working relationships between academics and student services and across the sector, student services need to be resourced so they can meet the needs of students, so that academics aren’t put in situations where they are providing this level of support to students.”
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