Colleges and universities have become well aware of the growing mental health crisis plaguing students, especially their first-years who developed during the pandemic. However, a new report reveals that the problem isn’t contained to students; higher education should also take stock in evaluating their staff’s mental health.
TimelyCare, one of the most prominent telehealth services for higher education, found that six in 10 are experiencing issues related to mental health. Moreover, their personal struggles with anxiety, stress and depression are persisting year-over-year: eight in 10 felt the same level—if not more—than this time last year. The telehealth provider surveyed over 500 faculty and staff at two- and four-year institutions last month for this survey.
Career issues ranked as one of employees’ top stressors. Employee workload was identified as the No. 1 aspect of their jobs causing the most stress; 45% of those surveyed chose this answer. In CUPA-HR’s newest survey, analysts also identified increased workload due to thin staffing as a driver of the heightened year-over-year employee turnover rate. Perhaps as a consequence of increased workload, TimelyCare found fatigue and burnout (43%) as the second-most prominent job stressors.
Toxic work environments are also a culprit; workplace politics (30%) ranked as the third-highest stressor. Coincidentally, this report comes at the heels of accusations toward Lincoln University’s (Mo.) president, contributing to the suicide of an administrator for sustained mental abuse and bullying, KCTV 5 reports.
While staff try to mitigate the stressors of higher workloads and possibly poor work environments, a revitalized emphasis on student support is also increasing their job pressures. Three out of four believe supporting students’ mental health is a job expectation now. Students’ sustained mental health issues are essentially feeding faculty and staff’s stress and anxiety, according to the TimelyCare survey.
The cumulative stress faculty carry led half of all surveyed to consider leaving their job.
Joanna Brooks, Associate Vice President for Faculty Advancement and Student Success at San Diego State University and vocal advocate for faculty affairs, told University Business in a July 2023 article that the time is now to embrace faculty support frameworks. Education leaders must equip employees with the tools to strive, not merely survive.
“How do we support our colleagues so they can reach their potential over the long haul?” she said. “How can they stay healthy and engaged and vibrant teachers and creators of knowledge across very long careers?”
Addressing faculty mental health
More than a quarter of faculty and staff said their college or university does not provide adequate mental health resources, and 75% said additional services would improve their job satisfaction.
Nearly half (49%) said they have not sought emotional support from a peer, counselor, health coach, or other resource. Their top coping mechanisms were spending time with friends and family, exercising and time in nature.
“I think faculty and staff need resources more than anything,” said Davien Armstrong, case manager at Tidewater Community College’s (Va.) Student Resource and Empowerment Center, in a press release. “They need to know that for whatever concern they have, there’s a resource that is easily accessible to them that they’re not going to be judged for using.”
The top resources they identified their institution does not currently provide and that would help improve their resilience are:
- Peer-to-peer support resources (35%)
- Virtual counseling (32%)
- In-person counseling/mental health support (30%)