Dr Ali Haggett with Mark Blackmore (Time for Change) and students were involved in Grand Challenges ‘No health without mental health’.

University signs up to mental health anti-stigma pledge

The University of Exeter is joining a growing number of companies committing to end the stigma and discrimination against people with experience of mental health problems by signing a pledge with Time to Change, a programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

University Provost, Professor Janice Kay will sign the Pledge, as part of the official ceremony on Wednesday 10 December, at 11am in the Street Forum. Professor Janice Kay said:“The Time to Change Organisational Pledge demonstrates a serious commitment to challenging stigma and discrimination against mental illness across the University. Through this we seek to promote a better understanding of mental health problems while offering support and welfare advice to both students and staff.”

The event is a direct legacy from last year’s Grand Challenge theme ‘No health without mental health’. It reflects the combined efforts of HR, Academic Services, FXU and the Guild across both the Streatham and Penryn campuses Grand Challenges is a week-long summer programme in which Exeter undergraduates work together in interdisciplinary research groups, alongside top academics, to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. This year’s topics included mental health, climate change, sustainable food production and conservation.

Dr Ali Haggett, a historian of mental illness at the University of Exeter, who led the mental health related theme, explained the lessons learnt from the students who explored the issue of mental health during the series of discussions and workshops on this Grand Challenge. She said: “Students spent a week investigating all aspects of mental health, but one important perspective was mental health on campus. They examined a range of ideas that might promote wellbeing and reduce stigma towards those with mental health conditions. Students’ initial enthusiasm was developed further by staff across the University as we then worked with Time to Change to produce an ‘action plan’, culminating in the signing of the organisational pledge. We hope that this important commitment will make a real difference to staff and students here at the University.”

The University of Exeter joins the wide movement of organisations that have signed up to the Time to Change pledge, including the Premier League, BT, British Gas, Ernst & Young, Citizen’s Advice, Accenture, Shell, Lloyds, and many NHS trusts, universities, and local authorities.

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “It is fantastic that more and more organisations are showing their support in tackling the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems. Employers and their staff can all play a part in helping to stamp out stigma and companies like the University of Exeter are taking a lead.

“Many leading companies have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only has benefits for their staff but also benefits their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in four people experiencing mental illness it's time for businesses to work on their approach and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces."

Time to Change is England’s biggest anti-stigma programme led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of HealthThe Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief. Set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, Time to Change promotes better understanding to combat discrimination towards people who experience mental health problems.

Support available for students: Student Wellbeing Centre

Support available for staff: Staff Wellbeing Centre

Date: 9 December 2014

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