Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy (2022-23)
All members of the Queen’s, staff and students, play an important role in the success of our community. A whole university approach on health and wellbeing is fundamental to ensuring a culture exists where all members can flourish regardless of their role at the University.
While there is a clear understanding and appreciation of the fact that students and staff encounter unique and very different aspirations and challenges, #QUBeWell endorses the concept that we all play an important role in the individual and collective success of our community.
As a University, we exist to provide a supportive learning, research, work environment underpinned by meaningful connections, the shaping of unique life experiences, and scaffolding the individual and collective contributions to local and global society.
In recognising this, there are instances where our people, for a variety of reasons, require additional measures and interventions that enable us to flourish. It is recognised that an individual’s mental health and wellbeing journey can be varied and sometimes complex. It can be impacted by many factors – environmental, physiological and situational – some of which may or may not be within the control of the individual. It is therefore essential that the University has resources and tools in place to support one another manage our wellbeing, as well as provide support when our wellbeing is at a lower point within the continuum.
This policy statement sets out our policy position on supporting mental health and wellbeing on campus. It is enabled by the #QUBeWell Framework, an operational action plan, and is supported by individual Service Delivery Plans of key areas across the University and the Students’ Union.
2. Background and Context
The need to focus on supporting health and wellbeing remains a significant priority in the Higher Education sector. As local and global health settings, they should exist as healthy settings to learn and to work. Within a public health context, the University seeks to embed this through evidence-based approaches including the “Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing”.
The University has both contributed and followed policy developments, most notably the UUK Step Change Mentally Healthy Universities Framework; the University Mental Health Charter developed by Student Minds, and are active members of the Healthy Universities Network.
Collectively, they endorse a clear need for Universities to adopt and embed a Whole University Approach in addressing and improving student and staff health and wellbeing.
Strategy 2030 sets out our aspiration to provide a transformative student experience, enabled by our people within a vibrant organisational culture, and based on our Core Values. For universities, there is a clear responsibility on us. As a place of education, as an employer, as a centre of research excellence, we must ensure that the environment is a supportive one.
#QUBeWell was developed as a staff and student partnership to bring a range of initiatives and developments together into a visible and accessible campaign. “Towards a healthy Campus: Building our Framework Together” was published in March 2021, and set out initial areas that the University would focus on:
- Learning Environment
- Support & Resources
- Working Environment
- Living & Awareness-Raising
An effective co-design process will allow our staff and students to take part in the discussions, and share ideas and solutions to realising our vision to being a healthy campus. Although at different stages of maturity, the Framework focuses on support for students; support for staff; and support for staff who support students; all considered across the four areas listed above. This forms the basis of a supporting live action plan.
3. Key Principles
This policy statement seeks to outline the University’s commitment in supporting the health and wellbeing of student and staff. This encompasses a range of strategic directions including:
- Visible senior leadership and endorsement of strategic initiatives that improve the health and wellbeing of the University’s community, including the University’s Executive and Senate.
- the development of communities within which students are supported to be healthy learners, able to learn, research, collaborate, and be assessed within healthy settings;
- the embedding of an overall positive culture of health and wellbeing within the University, underpinned by the University’s Core Values, “ICARE”;
- a regard for equality, diversity and inclusion within the context of improving student and staff health and wellbeing; an awareness and understanding of health inequalities and risk factors;
- ensuring strong education, awareness-raising, and de-stigmatisation of perceptions and concepts surrounding health and wellbeing;
- promote the benefits of prevention and early-intervention to students and staff, particularly those who are struggling and require additional support;
- provide opportunities and actively encourage our people to declare any disabilities, long-term conditions, or any other issues that affects their participation within the University;
- developing positive growth mind-sets within the community to empower proactive management of an individual sense of health and wellbeing;
- reviewing of our policies and procedures to help ensure that the University promotes positive health and wellbeing in a clear way, and is supported by its community of students and staff;
- delivery of training that allows staff in direct and indirect student and staff support roles to carry out their duties, and be supported throughout the management of related boundaries and limitations;
- Provision of informal campaigns, including many that are peer led, and support networks to ensure that students and staff facilitate dialogue with each other about our shared understanding of health and wellbeing;
- reducing health inequalities through the development of innovative, excellent, and interdisciplinary research on health and wellbeing
- delivery of an inclusive set of student-facing and staff-facing support services on-campus, which seeks to provide comprehensive advice, guidance, and support to those who need it most;
- data driven and evidence based decision making using data from sources such as the Staff Pulse Survey, the OMNI Student Mental Health Survey, the Gaps and Pressures Analysis, and external data and policy from relevant research areas;
- ongoing monitoring and review of service design and delivery, to ensure services are robust, culturally competent, and meets the evolving needs of the community it services;
- collaboration and partnership with external providers and stakeholders to ensure that care pathways and referrals are joined-up, effective, and provides ongoing support to students and staff throughout their time at the University.
Using these principles together, #QUBeWell will:
- Explore Environmental Factors – both internal and external – that positively and negatively influence our health and wellbeing, including culture, stressors, inefficient processes, along with external factors that deserve a compassionate response;
- recognise the effect of culture and environment, and specific inequalities, on mental health and wellbeing;
- seek to transform the university into a healthy setting; and
- empower students and staff to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.
4. Implementation and Governance
The #QUBeWell Framework will be enabled primarily through the #QUBeWell Programme Board. The Board will seek to ensure that it adopts a strategic oversight of issues that positively and negatively influence the health and wellbeing landscape within Higher Education settings.
Operationally, a #QUBeWell Management Group sets high-level priorities and areas to focus on, alongside implementation of agreed project plans and timelines.
In recent years, Faculty and Directorate-specific initiatives have grown organically. In recognising the numerous benefits this brings to everyone, the University commits to providing support and resources that allows these examples to succeed and develop.
Effective co-design will further allow formal and informal opportunities for our community to help shape the projects and work that allows us to advance further on this journey.
Each of the stakeholders who contribute directly and indirectly to this policy statement carry out regular evaluation to ensure the targets of its services and objectives are met and exceeded. Within a context of wellbeing, there are many soft and tangible outcomes which can analyse our success in adhering to the principles set out above. Adopting this data-driven and evidence-informed approach will allow evaluation to be robust, and consistently seeking to improve.
Our University is a place where people study, live and work. It strives to be a nurturing and supportive environment that empowers our students and staff to be mentally well.
Moreover, we must seek to create parity of esteem between our physical health and our mental health. Experts show that focusing this on a setting – our healthy campus – will allow us to succeed on that mission.