From education to employment

Still taboo for FE’s mentally ill

Michele Sutton, chair of the Healthy FE Steering Group

Only 0.02 per cent of FE staff declare they have a mental health condition, according to research suggesting it is still taboo for many in the sector.

A study by Lifelong Learning, the Sector Skills Council, shows while the majority of staff declaring disability (2.7 per cent) prefer not to specify the nature of their impairment, many more stated it was physical (0.5 per cent) than concerned with their mental health.

According to anti-discrimination charity Time to Change, one in four adults experience mental health problems in any one year.

Lifelong Learning is offering advice to colleges as part of Mental Health Week, which ends this Sunday. Advice includes adopting a risk-assessment approach to mental health and promoting mental well-being through policies, practices and procedures.

“I believe it is unrealistic to assume that all FE staff and learners face the same health issues or that there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution that can be applied to every FE College in the country,” says Michele Sutton, principal of Bradford College and chair of the Healthy Further Education (Healthy FE) Steering Group.

“I urge Colleges to create an environment and culture which allows for emotional wellbeing to be discussed openly and addressed, so that people may receive the treatment they require. For example, at Bradford College last year, during Mental Health Week, we raised awareness of mental health by providing guidance for staff and learners throughout the week on how to deal with stress and anxiety.”

Min Rodriguez, equality and diversity manager at Lifelong Learning UK, says: “Lifelong Learning UK is about to publish guidance on managing effective staff disclosure processes. We are also about to embark on a series of regional roadshows on how colleges can promote a safer environment for staff disclosure.

“Creating an inclusive culture where disclosure is accepted may include – among other things – raising the visibility of disability issues among staff and learners, making reasonable adjustments easily available, and promoting a disability-friendly organization, such as by signing up to the national Mindful Employer scheme.”

Ms Sutton adds: “By ensuring the right processes and systems are in place, the numbers of people who enjoy working and learning in Colleges and who achieve their goals will undoubtedly increase.”


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