Myth: university students and staff know how to access wellbeing support

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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:

Student wellbeing

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.

Staff wellbeing

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.”

Source: Sonder (survey conducted by McGregor Tan)
Source: Beyond Blue (survey conducted by TNS Social Research)

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:


  • Ask university leaders to advocate openly and often about the importance of wellbeing and how to access wellbeing support programs.
  • Encourage wellbeing program leaders to simplify support programs, because it’s easier for students and staff to remember how to access programs if there’s a single entry point, and 24/7, multilingual access.
  • Consider how to reach all students and staff, multiple times, using a variety of channels, mediums, timings, languages, and culturally-sensitive phrasing.
  • Foster open, regular and meaningful discussions in your student and staff communities about work/study pressures, physical safety, psychological safety, mental health, holistic wellbeing, and available support options.
  • Provide forums for the sharing of lived experiences, to lessen the stigma of seeking help.
  • Empower student and staff leaders with information and empathy, so they can help to multiply your impact.
Source: Universities Australia in partnership with headspace

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.

About Sonder

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.

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Sonder is reimagining health, safety and wellbeing support. Sonder proves human centric care leads to earlier intervention. Sonder impacts one person at a time to drive meaningful change across an organisation. Sonder understands people and how to support them.

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