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Understanding adjustments: supporting staff and students who are experiencing mental health difficulties

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Raising awareness amongst all staff and students of the role they can play in promoting an inclusive environment which is supportive of mental health

For: Mental health and counselling services on campus; student support services; human resources practitioners; all staff and students

When: January 2013 – May 2014


National figures from the ECU statistical reports 2012 indicate that in UK higher education around 1 in 150 students (0.7%) and around 1 in 500 staff (0.2%) have disclosed a mental health condition to their university (these figures are based on university disability monitoring data provided to the Higher Education Statistical Agency). Figures from the Department of Health indicate that 'one in four adults experience mental illness at some point during their lifetime and one in six experience symptoms at any one time.'

These statistics indicate that a number of people within higher education are experiencing mental health difficulties but have not disclosed a mental health condition through their universities disability monitoring activities. Previous research from ECU (Evidencing equality: approaches to increasing disclosure and take-up of disabled students allowance) discusses a number of factors which may account for people not disclosing a disability to their university. These include:

  • individuals not recognising that they meet the legal definition of disability
  • fear that individuals will receiver unfair treatment from their university, peers or colleagues if they disclose
  • lack of awareness of what reasonable adjustments can be made to overcome any substantial disadvantage they may face
  • lack of opportunities to disclose

Supporting staff and students

If universities and colleges do not have accurate equality information about their staff and students, they may not be able to effectively carry out the pro-active aspects of the Equality Act, such as making anticipatory reasonable adjustments, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations. Further, if a university is not engaged in discussions with staff and students around disclosing any mental health difficulties they may be experiencing, then these individuals may not receive appropriate individual reasonable adjustments, such as adjustments to working hours and adjustments to the processes by which student competences are assessed.

The aims of the project

This project will explore two interconnected areas; staff and student disclosure of mental health difficulties, and the support that universities and Scottish colleges provide to people experiencing mental health difficulties.

The work will result in:

  • a research report outlining strategies to increase disclosure rates and highlighting the approaches to support, including reasonable adjustments, that universities have made
  • a series of short briefings, targeted at staff and students, which highlight ways to promote an inclusive environment for people experiencing mental health difficulties

The report and briefings will be informed by a staff and student survey, interviews, a review of university and college practice and expert input from members of the project advisory group.

Primary contact

Chris Brill
Senior Policy Adviser

Telephone: 020 7438 1021