Lecturer speaks out over mental health challenges at universities
She also called out the problematic two-way power relationship between students and staff
A lecturer from the University of Sheffield has spoken out about the huge challenges in how universities deal with mental health.
Lisa Bradley, the deputy head of Sheffield’s Journalism department, said teaching staff can find themselves in ‘really difficult’ situations when trying to help students.
Speaking to The Tab before the launch of her new book, Lisa said: “As lecturers, we are advised not to enter into discussions of personal circumstances and meant to signpost them in the direction of mental health support services, because we’re not trained counsellors and that’s not really why we are there.
“But how can you do that when the waiting list is weeks on end, and people say they’re on the brink of suicide – what sort of human being is going to say ‘I can’t talk to you about that, here’s a leaflet? It can be so difficult to be clinical but equally, it can leave you both in a vulnerable position.”
The author also said how it raises the problem of boundaries between staff and students.
“The power relationship goes two ways now – students pay huge sums of money for their degree, but that has changed the context of the relationship between them and academics now.
“Knowing how much debt and pressure they are under can make you really want to go the extra mile to help them.”
Her comments come amid a mental health crisis at British universities.
And in Sheffield, Sheffessions admins spoke of the ‘truly heartbreaking’ circumstances whereby almost one in four submissions are about mental health issues.
Lisa’s fictional psychological thriller, The Lesson, will explore all the above and more.
She also told The Tab how helping students can be interpreted in the wrong way.
“I’m better now at maintaining boundaries, but when I first started teaching I didn’t realise how things can be interpreted. At a previous institution, I had more than one student who formed an unhealthy attachment after I spent hours and hours trying to counsel him, such as messaging me all through the night, ringing me at 2 am, and thinking there’s a relationship there that isn’t.
“But those boundraies aren’t black and white. Such as it is good practice to keep an office door open – but how can you do that when someone is in floods of tears, telling you personal things?”
The Lesson is set to be released on July 8 and can be pre-ordered here.