Supporting our students and staff with their mental health and wellbeing is a hugely important part of all we do.
We are aware of an increase in the number of students disclosing mental health issues in recent years and in the 2017/18 academic year, 38% of students who declared a disability made specific reference to mental health difficulties. Given that one in four adults will experience mental ill-health at some point in their life, we are also acutely aware that this is more than likely an under-representation of the actual number of students studying with mental ill-health. For this reason, we have invested in additional mental health specialist staff, introduced mental health champions and are in the process of rolling out a programme of mental health first aiders across the University.
Insight from staff records on sickness absence, occupational health referrals, uptake levels of our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) along with staff survey feedback reveals that mental health is a recurring and important theme for our staff. For example, in the 2017/18 academic year, 60% of calls to the EAP were mental health related. In the same period, 21% of total sickness absence was due to stress, anxiety or depression, while 35% of the 347 occupational health referrals made were related to mental health.
For these reasons, supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our students and staff is a priority area for the University and something we seek to improve and this is why we have developed our Student and Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy, in line with the Universities UK (2017) #stepchange framework for mental health in higher education.
As the OU operates across the four nations of the UK as well as internationally, we have a responsibility to respond equally to the requirements of all four nations’ governing bodies.