This week is Mental Health Awareness Week which offers an important opportunity to reflect on the impact workplaces can have on our mental health.
Looking after the wellbeing of staff benefits everyone – and tertiary education institutions need to do more. When staff feel their work is meaningful and they are valued and supported, they tend to have higher wellbeing levels.
Published earlier this year, research by Tertiary Education Union showed that many of the tertiary education reforms introduced by National over the last nine years have contributed to a decline in staff wellbeing.
The findings showed that staff are experiencing higher levels of stress, unsustainable workloads and are feeling more alienated from their jobs compared to a decade ago.
Several respondents shared their personal experience of working in tertiary institutions, indicating that some staff feel torn between their commitment to students and the strain of an unsupportive workplace.
“My stomach is often in knots but I keep going for the potential and current students’ sake,” one respondent told the TEU.
For years National has increased the pressure on public institutions to compete for their funding, which has had contributed to a decline in mental health for some staff.
A feeling that was reflected by another respondent to TEU’s survey, who told us: “Everyone is stressed. You cannot teach or learn in such a harsh, stressful environment. This is such a short sighted approach.”
Academics who are required to focus on driving resource funding also have less time to give pastoral care to any students, let alone those experiencing mental health issues. For some, access to pastoral care can be the difference between passing and failing.
Mental Health Awareness Week is an important opportunity to talk about mental health and to discuss what needs to change in our sector to better support staff and student well-being.
Mental Health Awareness Week is endorsed by the World Federation for Mental Health and is marked in over 150 countries at different times of the year.