Provost's View: Wellbeing at UCL and removing the stigma around mental ill-health
16 February 2017
If we are to maintain our position as a globally-leading research intensive university, it is clear to me that we must support our staff and students, so that we can all achieve our full potential.
This support must be wholehearted and should be aimed at promoting the 'wellbeing', in every sense of the word, of all members of our university community.
Our efforts in this area neatly chime with the views of our spiritual founder, Jeremy Bentham:
"Directly or indirectly, well-being, in some shape or other...is the subject of every thought, and object of every action, on the part of every known Being...nor can any intelligible reason be given for desiring that it should be otherwise." - Jeremy Bentham, Chrestomathia (1817)
'Wellbeing' is a word much used in recent times in workplaces, sometimes rather tokenistically, but I am very pleased that this is not the case at UCL.
The Occupational Health & Wellbeing team in UCL Human Resources, with the support and input of many staff and students across UCL, has recently launched our wellbeing strategy, Wellbeing@UCL - which clearly states that the aim is to support staff and students to achieve their potential, through a framework of six 'pillars of wellbeing'.
In particular, its key goals are to remove mental ill-health stigma and support mental wellness through a series of workshops and online resources, offering support to all of UCL's community in an environment that can be pressured and competitive.
I was delighted to be asked to launch Wellbeing@UCL, in the South Cloisters and glad so many colleagues were able to attend. More than 500 members of our community were in attendance and it was good to see so many internal and external partners represented at the market place arranged following the formal launch.
These included our Dignity at Work advisors, supported by colleagues in Equalities, Disability and Inclusion team, whose support provision is one of the most comprehensive in the sector; UCLU, promoting the array of support offered by them including their 'Heads Up' campaign, which encourages people to talk about their mental health; Camden Alcohol Service; Smoke Free Camden; UCL's Parent and Carers Network; UCL's catering provider Sodexo; and the Cyclescheme - to name just a few.
UCL's Occupational Health and Wellbeing team provided information on the strategy and talked to the many staff and students who were in attendance. It was very gratifying to see so many staff and students engaged in conversations around wellbeing.
An integral part of UCL 2034
Wellbeing is critical to UCL in delivering UCL 2034, our 20-year strategy, and will help support our most valuable asset, our people, and help to give our students the best possible support while they study here at UCL.
Our wellbeing strategy is aligned to UCL 2034 through key enabler 1, "Giving our students the best support, facilities and opportunity" and key enabler 2, "Valuing our staff and delivering on equality and diversity".
We will achieve UCL 2034 through our people, and we continue to focus on these key enablers to foster the environment where people know that they are valued and making a difference - not only to UCL, but also to the wider community.
As a world-leading university, we have a richness of research and knowledge here that is being accessed to help inform and influence the wellbeing strategy - which will be reviewed and updated over time.
Through collaborative partnerships, our Occupational Health and Wellbeing team will connect with academics and researchers to create a group of expert advisors. They will share their knowledge in a way that is understood by the wider community and be of benefit to them, with future lecture events being advertised on the Staff news pages, as well as on the Wellbeing@UCL website.
Our expert advisors and network of Wellbeing Champions - local volunteers who will be trained to promote wellbeing at a local level - will enable us to build on the foundations of the six pillars of Wellbeing@UCL, set out below:
• policies and practice
• healthy lifestyles
• mental wellness
• removing mental ill-health stigma
• culture and behaviour change.
The Time to Change Pledge
The strategy has a focus on mental wellness and removing mental ill-health stigma, which often prevents people from asking for help. UCL is working with UCLU on the Time to Change Pledge to remove this stigma.
Through being involved with Time to Change, we are showing that we are serious about tackling the stigma that can be associated with mental ill-health, so that staff and students can be better supported when seeking help.
Our environment should be one where people can be open about their health, whether this is physical or mental health.
The Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing (GCHW) have been involved with the development of the wellbeing strategy from the outset and this brings exciting opportunities for collaboration between UCL researchers and our professional services areas.
At UCL, we have access through UCL Culture to eight museums and collections. The UCL Culture manifesto provokes our thinking around "Culture = health" and, in the launch week, UCL Art Museum hosted a workshop 'Mindfulness through art'. These are collaborations that will continue to support the wellbeing of staff and students.
Many areas across UCL are proactive: they are holding workshops, wellbeing days and, in some areas, wellbeing programmes, which take place over a longer period.
UCL Brain Sciences and Human Resources are just two of the areas that developed and ran a wellbeing programme in 2016. The wellbeing strategy will draw these best practice examples together and enable faculties and departments across UCL to demonstrate how, they too, will embrace the wellbeing agenda.
Professor Michael Arthur
President & Provost