50 leaders from education, business and mental health sign Open Letter to Government

Education leaders join calls for Government to update health and safety legislation to protect mental health in the workplace

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister signed by more than 50 leaders from across education, business and mental health has called on the Government to prioritise its manifesto pledge to amend health and safety legislation to put mental and physical first aid on an equal footing.

Signed by leaders from organisations including Universities UK, Student Minds and Young Minds, this call comes at a time when mental ill health affects around one in five of 16–24-year-olds1. Research by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association has also shown that mental ill health accounts for around 20% of days lost for university employees2, with around two thirds of academics with mental health issues saying these are related to the impact their work has on their wellbeing3.

Support needed for staff and students alike

Simon Blake, Chief Executive, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England commented, “This Open Letter shows that education leaders clearly recognise the need to support their staff and students’ mental health in the same way they do their physical health.

Ensuring that first aid support is there for the thousands of staff and students who struggle with their mental health every year will make a big difference

“The change in legislation we are calling for will establish a baseline for protecting mental health in Higher Education workplaces, ensuring no one is left behind. This is just one part of improving approaches to mental health in universities, but it represents an important step forward. Ensuring that first aid support is there for the thousands of staff and students who struggle with their mental health every year will make a big difference to how we all think about our health as a whole.”

The Open Letter follows the delivery of a petition of over 200,000 public signatures to 10 Downing Street as part of a mental health campaign called ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ founded by Natasha Devon MBE, Mental Health First Aid England, and Bauer Media, which has received cross-party backing. MPs from across the political spectrum originally showed their support for the issue by signing an Early Day Motion tabled by Norman Lamb MP in October 2016.

Find out more about Higher Education Mental Health First Aid at: mhfaengland.org/organisations/higher-education

Supporters of the campaign can continue to sign the petition at www.wheresyourheadat.org

1 Not By Degrees, IPPR 2017

2 Universities & Colleges Employers Association, 2015: Sickness Absence Survey

3 Guardian survey of 2,561 academics, 2014