More than half of university staff are showing probable signs of depression, a survey suggests.
Nearly three in 10 (29%) of university employees feel emotionally drained from their work every day, according to the poll by charity Education Support.
More than three in four (78%) of academics, non-academic managers and professional staff in higher education believe that the psychological health of employees is not seen as important as productivity.
The risk of burnout among university staff is high and the level of mental wellbeing is “considerably lower” than population norms, the report suggests.
The poll, of 2,046 academics and academic-related staff in UK universities in March, found that 29% achieved scores indicating average wellbeing and 53% achieved scores indicating probable depression.
And yet nearly three in five (59%) fear they will be seen as weak if they seek support for their wellbeing.
Common barriers to obtaining support for wellbeing were lack of time due to a heavy workload and an inflexible schedule.
One respondent said: “I am scared to access anything that might show I’m struggling.”
Dr Siobhan Wray, one of the lead researchers, said: “These findings are of major concern. They highlight the need for urgent action to improve wellbeing in the higher education sector.
“Our findings demonstrate the types of support that are likely to help institutions meet the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and ‘build back better’ in terms of a healthy and productive workforce.”
Respondents frequently commented on how moving to online teaching, and the pressures of the pandemic more generally, had created pressures.
Some respondents highlighted the difficulties they experienced in teaching students online, while the increased need to provide pastoral support to students experiencing mental health issues was highlighted.
Sinead Mc Brearty, chief executive of Education Support, said: “University life has been turned upside down over the past 18 months. Alongside the enormous impact on the lives of students, we see tremendous pressure on the higher education workforce."
University and College (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said: “This report makes for stark reading, but sadly won’t come as news to the thousands of university staff who have been pushed to breaking point by their own employers.”
A Universities UK (UUK) spokeswoman said: “The health, wellbeing and safety of all staff and all students is a priority for universities."
Roshan Israni, deputy chief executive of employers association UCEA, said: “Universities continue to prioritise staff wellbeing during the ongoing pandemic.
“They quickly adapted in spring 2020 to support their workforce across all roles and continue to do so now that a majority of staff have returned to campus."
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