KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — A new report from the UK describes an epidemic of poor mental health among staff in institutions of higher education.
Amidst growing awareness of student mental health, the spotlight is increasingly turning to university personnel and staff. The report describes them as being “at breaking point”.
While acknowledging that the increases in reported rates of referrals to counseling and occupational health services may be due to improved access to support services, the study highlights universities as “anxiety machines” where staff struggle with excessive workloads, short-term contracts and a culture of workplace surveillance.
Data from 59 institutions of higher learning including Universities of Warwick, Newcastle, Cambridge and Essex were reviewed. They show an overall trend in referrals between 88% to 424% more than the baseline.
“In academic life, there are no peaks and troughs of work any more as the pace continues relentlessly throughout the year,” said report author Liz Morrish, of York St John University.
“Academics are inherently vulnerable to overwork and self-criticism, but the sources of stress have now multiplied to the point that many are at breaking point. “
“It is essential to take steps now to make universities more humane and rewarding workplaces which allow talented individuals to survive and thrive.”
The report was commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute.
Its recommendations to improve on conditions described not scheduling workloads “up to the max” to allow time for scholarly contemplation and experimentation, introducing more reasonable expectations of staff, security of employment and ensuring career pathways for development.