Academic staff and those in personal tutoring roles are often at the frontline of supporting students’ mental health. Positive support from academic staff has been found to facilitate academic and social integration for students, as well as improving students’ beliefs about their academic abilities. Importantly, poor personal tutoring from academic staff is actually worse than providing no tutoring at all (Yale, 2017).
Academic staff have identified a number of challenges in providing effective mental health support, including unclear professional boundaries and obligations, and lack of confidence, knowledge, or skills to deal with mental health problems or risk (Gulliver et al, 2018).
Additionally, the impact of pastoral responsibilities on the mental health and wellbeing of academic staff is often ignored. Poor mental health in academic staff has escalated over the recent years, which can be partly attributed to increasing workloads and pressures from audit processes and increased pressures around enhancing the student experience (Morrish, 2019). The stresses associated with performing a pastoral role may contribute to staff burnout, as staff may experience feelings of disappointment and demotivation when faced with disengaged and disrupted students (Salimzadeh, Saroyan & Hall, 2017). This can lead some staff to avoid support focused roles in order to protect their wellbeing (Watts & Robertson, 2011). Therefore, it is crucial that training considers the mental health and wellbeing of academics and how this could be affected by their role in supporting students.
Maudsley Learning has created training courses for academic staff in response to the Student Minds 2018 report on the role of academics in student mental health. The report found that academics feel that they do not have the necessary structures and support in place to effectively undertake this role, and the uncertainty surrounding this makes it difficult to maintain their boundaries.
To address these challenges, Maudsley Learning is offering a free webinar on the 4th of September 2020, focusing on managing students in acute distress and setting professional boundaries. Other courses available include a Masterclass in student mental health skills and a Simulation course for staff working in student support services to improve their confidence in assessing and managing various mental health difficulties in students.
These courses have been developed to acknowledge the role of academics as a valued area of support as part of the whole university approach model to support student mental health.
Overall, through addressing the specific training and education needs of academic staff around student mental health, we can provide more effective support for students, while improving the capabilities and wellbeing of academics in the process.
Marta Ortega Vega (Research Assistant at Maudsley Learning)
Organisation: https://maudsleylearning.com/ / firstname.lastname@example.org
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