A Student Idea on the Guild website has proposed that the university should introduce compulsory staff training for mental health, with the intention to improve student-staff relationships through knowing how to deal with its effects on learning.
The anonymous student who proposed the idea claimed that they were influenced by Exeposé’s investigation into mitigation policies in Issue 658. They argued that on the basis of the disclosures in the article, “it is clear that many staff members (especially in academia) do not have a basic understanding of mental health”, but that this could be improved by training staff to handle their students’ mental health difficulties. One student commented “It can be very difficult talking to staff who have little understanding of mental health, you get some very strange / unhelpful answers. For those who have less common things than depression, it must be so much harder.”
“it is clear that many staff members do not have a basic understanding of mental health”
The poll closed on the 17 November 2016, with the majority voting in agreement, only 11 voters in disagreement, and one person neutral. The University has informed Exeposé that staff mental health training has already been intoduced in a module created by the Academic Development Team, who have worked closely with Wellbeing Services.
The module, ‘Supporting Students: Mental Health, Wellbeing, and the HWSS Procedure’, is created for personal/ academic or senior tutors, but it is also relevant to all staff who are teaching, supervising or supporting students’ learning, whether they are academics or Professional Services staff. It gives advice for staff on signposting students to other services and guidance on the Health, Wellbeing and Support for Study procedure.
This module is being led by Professor Wendy Robinson, Academic Dean for Students and Dean of the Faculty of Taught Programmes; it also has the full endorsement of the Students’ Guild and of FXU.
Professor Robinson said: “This module is a useful and relevant resource for staff at the University of Exeter, to help us all to ensure that students are given the best possible support during their time with us. It is absolutely vital that staff are able to support students, and that they also feel supported themselves.
“It is now an essential requirement for people in many academic roles to take this module. So far feedback has been very positive, and Academic Development is continuing to look at ways to improve it.”
Alec James, VP Welfare & Diversity, said: “Mental health training for tutors was a key priority on my manifesto. After a number of meetings with the Academic Development team raising mental health training as a priority for tutors, myself and Tom Murray-Richards from FXU were given the opportunity to feed into a training resource for tutors.
“I am delighted that we now have this training resource. The module content is fantastic, early feedback has been good and I hope it makes a big difference.”