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Prioritising positive mental health and wellbeing in higher education

04 May 2023 | Bridgette Bewick Ahead of the Advance HE 2023 Mental Wellbeing in HE Conference, Professor Bridgette Bewick shares her thoughts on why it’s more important than ever that we put theory into practice and commit to a whole university approach to student and staff wellbeing.

If universities are to address poor mental wellbeing outcomes and mental health inequalities for students and staff we need a culture shift across the sector. The historical approach of siloed intervention and positioning mental health and wellbeing at the margins has failed to address the mental wellbeing needs of either students or staff.

Asking the right questions

Universities are increasingly recognising how important mental health and wellbeing are for success. Institutions are investing in developing and implementing resources to support student and staff mental health and wellbeing. However, if we focus solely on ‘resources’ and bespoke mental health and wellbeing ‘services’, we fail to ask fundamental questions about our pedagogical approach. We fail to critically evaluate and identify where culture, systems and structures are contributing to the continuation of injustice and marginalisation. 

The need for a whole university approach

A whole university approach requires us to design universities as places that support positive mental health and wellbeing. It calls for university educators, service providers, and leaders to expect universities to respond compassionately to individual needs. A whole institution approach means eradicating practices of exclusion that contribute to heightened levels of stress and psychological distress. This approach demands that institutions habitually prioritise and support mental health and wellbeing. This commitment must permeate throughout all aspects of the university.  A whole university approach calls on universities to proactively identify where institution-based structures are unable to meet the needs of individual students or staff, so the the institution can adapt and respond to individual need - ensuring students and staff get the support they need at the time they need it. If we are to realise the potential of a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing we must work together and build on existing good-practice.

The Advance HE Conference will provide the catalyst for us to work together and share real-world examples of good practice. It will facilitate and advance our understanding of how, as a sector, we can move beyond siloed best practice and commit to a whole university approach to mental wellbeing. Together we will create a more compassionate campus culture.

Mental Wellbeing in HE Conference 2023

For more information on real-world examples of how experts are putting into practice the strategic goal of a whole university approaches to student and staff wellbeing come join Advance HE’s Mental Wellbeing in HE Conference on 16 May 2023 at Mercure Piccadilly Hotel, Manchester. Find out more


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