Myth: university students and staff know how to access wellbeing support
Each year, universities invest significant time and dollars into the wellbeing of their students and staff. Motivated by legal and moral responsibilities (plus a desire to protect their institution’s brand and future), health-savvy universities prioritise, fund, and promote wellbeing support services across their various (on-campus, off-campus, and virtual) learning and working environments.
However, for students and staff to benefit from wellbeing support, they must understand their support options and know how to access that support. Therein lies a problem.
What the evidence says
Studies show that many students and staff do not fully understand and/or know how to access the wellbeing support services available to them. Typical reasons for lack of awareness of wellbeing support programs include:
Timely wellbeing support for students is important, given that “students experiencing mental illness [and/or poor wellbeing] are more likely to withdraw from courses, or to underachieve, and are less likely to progress,” said Universities UK, the collective voice of 140 universities across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Yet, surveys show that large numbers of students in Australia do not know how to access the wellbeing support provided by their university.
Timely wellbeing support for staff is equally important, given that “the direct and hidden costs of staff experiencing poor mental health [and wellbeing] are less documented in universities but are likely to be substantial,” said Universities UK.
All 39 member universities of Universities Australia rely on an employee assistance program (EAP) as their primary wellbeing support option for staff. Thirty-seven universities outsource their EAP to an external provider, and two provide equivalent counselling services in-house.
Yet, by its own admission, “One of the main challenges faced by the [EAP] sector is [staff] awareness,” said the Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australasia (EAPAA). “Only a small number [across all industries] are aware that they are covered, are aware that the service is confidential, or know how to access the service.”
How to boost awareness of wellbeing support programs
Whilst each institution and its student and staff communities might be unique, this suggested list of actions might inspire next steps and/or more customised ideas:
Want to learn more?
To read the other four myths about student and staff wellbeing, we invite you to download our evidence-based report, 5 myths about student and staff wellbeing.
For more information about how Sonder can help you rethink your university’s student and staff wellbeing strategies, we invite you to contact us here.
Sonder is an Active Care technology company that helps organisations improve the wellbeing of their people so they perform at their best. Our mobile app provides immediate, 24/7 support from a team of safety, medical, and mental health professionals - plus onsite help for time-sensitive scenarios. Accredited by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), our platform gives leaders the insights they need to act on tomorrow's wellbeing challenges today.