According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to UEA, the number of staff who accessed mental health support from the university rose by 36% in the 2020/21 academic, bringing the number from 163 people to 222.
The FOI request (FOI_21-176) shows that, prior to this 36% increase, the number of staff seeking support dropped by 3% from the 2018/19 to the 2019/20 academic year, from 168 people to 163.
These figures include university-run staff counselling services, mental health and wellbeing workshops, and the Employee Assistance Programme which was newly introduced in 2020.
Available to all students, staff, and their families, the Programme is a free advice and counselling service. Running on a 24/7 basis, it “provides support for all employees throughout the year, allowing [the university] to provide flexible provision according to need”.
After being cut by 20% in the 2019/20 academic year, the budget for staff mental health and wellbeing services rose by 19% for 2020-21, currently standing at £137,384 per annum.
Upon requesting the annual budget for 2021-22, the university gave the following response: “The full figure for [21/22] will be known in the coming weeks… We pay very close attention to the number of staff accessing our mental health support facilities and will always ensure that the financial support is balanced according to the need”.
Kirsty Webb, Associate Director in the People and Culture division, said: “Supporting staff wellbeing is fundamental to our culture and values here at UEA. The University’s budget for staff mental health support includes the funding for the Staff Counselling Team in Student Services to ensure they are equipped to deal with a variety of different mental health issues, as well as funding from the People and Culture Division for the Employee Assistance Programme.”
The People and Culture team have also recently implemented an additional resource in recruiting a dedicated Employee Wellbeing Partner. The Partner will be focussed on “embedding the University’s staff mental health and wellbeing strategy across policy, practice and decision making at UEA”.
Responding to the 36% increase, Kirsty said: “The number of staff who accessed mental health and wellbeing services at UEA during 2020/2021 is higher than the year before, particularly during periods of the year when staff, students and the wider community were significantly impacted by the pandemic”.