University counselling services ‘inundated by stressed academics’

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Stressed out academics are inundating university counselling services as they grapple with heavy workloads and oppressive management, a report says.

Referrals to such services had risen by three-quarters between 2009 and 2015, the study for the Higher Education Policy Institute indicated. Author Dr Liz Morrish said academics were facing unmanageable workloads in university “anxiety machines”. University bosses say they are working to improve wellbeing in institutions.

Until recently, the mental health of students rather than academics has been in sharp focus, with a string of student suicides prompting attempts to support young people living away from home. But the deaths by suicide of two respected academics, Malcolm Anderson, at Cardiff University, and Prof Stefan Grimm, at Imperial College, have highlighted the excessive pressure that some academics feel.

Dr Morrish’s study suggested the pressure of performance management and a data-led culture of surveillance had led middle-aged academics to be at greater suicide risk then either students or peers in other professions. She gave the example of managers who gave staff the message that “one is never doing enough, producing enough or performing well enough or quickly enough, this can rapidly lead to employee burnout”.

And she highlighted how increasing workloads “up to the max” piled the pressure on individuals and that the insecurity of one short-term contract after another fed into staff anxiety and mental ill health.

Acting general secretary of the University and College Union Paul Cottrell said:

“Excessive workloads, a lack of job security and managers obsessed with league tables and rankings have blighted the sector for years and this report lays bare the negative impact those working conditions have on the mental health of staff.

“Universities need to support their staff and ensure they can get the help they need but, crucially, they have to tackle the root cause of these problems.”

Article taken from BBC news.

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