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The neoliberal university: making space for mental ill-health in social work education

Event Name The neoliberal university: making space for mental ill-health in social work education
Start Date 20th Nov 2019 3:00pm
End Date 20th Nov 2019 5:00pm
Duration 2 hours
Description

Mental well-being in the HEI sector can be seriously compromised (Gill and Donaghue, 2016; Shaw 2014; The Times Higher Education supplement (THE), 2018) with universities being “often toxic workplaces, marked by growing rates of stress, distress and physical and mental illness amongst those who work and study in them” (Gill and Donaghue, 2016:98). The Times Higher Education (THE) (2018) has repeatedly warned of the poor mental health that academics are experiencing as a result of overwork, stress and managerial systems that focus on bureaucratic and administrative processes. Gill (2014) notes that despite the growing interest in reflexivity, the experiences of academics who experience mental ill-health as a result of working conditions in the HEI environment have largely escaped critical attention; although despite this, Gill and Donaghue (2016:98) note that this issue remains an “open secret” receiving increasing attention in higher education journals and debates at conferences.

Social work highlights the importance of inclusion of the expert-by-experience in social work education, and moreover in practice, the strengths approach emphasises the importance of this perspective. Yet, for many, the mental health identity of academics remains hidden and unexplored, both in social work education as well as the wider context of HEIs, as highlighted above. I explore my experiences as a mental health service user in social work academia, and reflect on how this perspective can be very positive for student learning, research and practice, teaching students, academics and practitioners to value and explore this standpoint.

I discuss my experiences of receiving Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapy) therapy that utilises mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques in order to assist in managing stress and anxiety. I explore, from a very personal perspective, its impact on my ability to manage stress in HEI social work education more effectively, and finally conclude by returning to reflection on the wider context of the mental health identity in social work education and the HEI environment.

Please note: this talk may be filmed and/or photographed.

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Image of Dr Joanna Fox