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Mental Health

Mental health

There are a variety of counselling options available to staff provided by the University or elsewhere. Please see more information below to help you choose which service is best for you. These services are all free.

The Managing Mental Health and Stress Standard sets out processes for managing stress at the University and links to relevant resources and support (staff). Managers can get further information from the online training module - Supporting the Mental Wellbeing of Your Team and the Leaders' and Managers' Mental Health and Stress Toolkit.

The University has Mindful Employer status. The Mindful Employer Charter is about recognising employers working towards better mental health in the workplace. By signing the Charter, employers are making a public declaration of their ambition to support the mental wellbeing of their staff by agreeing to set of commitments. The Charter requires signatories to submit updates to the Mindful Employer every two years, describing ways their organisation is working towards Charter objectives. The University of Exeter has been a Mindful Employer Charter signatory since 2014.

There are various forms of psychological support available to you if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, low mood or you have a diagnosed mental health condition. This is a brief guide to help you understand what is available and decide what is right for you. You are welcome to contact the Occupational Health Team if you would like to talk through your options.

The University’s Employee Assistance Programme, Spectrum Life
Spectrum Life offers up to six sessions of short-term, solution-focused counselling free of charge to University of Exeter employees and PhD students. This approach can be helpful in managing the emotional impact of difficult life events, such as a relationship breakdown or problems at work. The counselling sessions are completely confidential and no personal details are shared with the University. The service can be accessed on a self-referral basis, either by telephone or online – please look at the Spectrum Life webpage.      

NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies
The NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) facility is available nationwide, with each county offering its own service. IAPT services offer evidence-based psychological treatments, found to be effective in the treatment of common mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, or stress-related mental illness. Treatments comply with NICE guidance. Services can be accessed on a self-referral basis, either via telephone or online (check individual services). The service is confidential, but they may wish to share information with your GP. To find the service for your county/area, please follow this link.

Community Mental Health Teams
The Mental Health Assessment Team manage new referrals and provide a single point of assessment and access to adult community mental health services in Devon. In Cornwall, this service is provided by the Integrated Community Mental Health Teams. Please contact your GP if you require a referral to these services.  

Mental health emergencies, including if you are feeling suicidal
For more urgent mental health situations, you can call the First Response Service (Devon) on 0300 555 500 or the Cornwall service on 0800 038 5300. The Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day on 116 123. If you are feeling suicidal, but are safe and have someone with you for support, please request an emergency appointment with your GP. If you have concerns about your immediate safety or the safety of someone else, please call 999.

If you have concerns about your immediate safety or the safety of someone else, please call 999.

Local NHS Trusts offer a telephone service 24/7 for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, or have concerns about someone’s mental wellbeing

Devon Partnership NHS Trust

The First Response Service (FRS) puts you and your mental health first, providing a service seven days a week, 365 days a year. The service is an urgent mental health service for people with mental health and learning disability needs. Callers can now access mental health care, advice and guidance 24/7.

If you are concerned about feeling unsafe, are very distressed or if you are known to their services and there are signs of a mental health relapse, you can contact the FRS by dialling 0808 196 8708 or 0300 555 5000.
If you aren't able to make the call yourself then anyone can call on your behalf, for example a friend, carer, loved one, or your GP. The service is available to anyone aged 18 and above in a mental health crisis currently living in Devon (excluding Plymouth).

For 24/7 NHS mental health response line for support and advice call  free on 0800 038 5300, any time day or night if you are worried about your own or someone else’s mental health. The team behind the 24/7 is open access telephone response line will listen to you and determine how best to help.

Their webpages also have a list of helplines and other resources

If you are not base in Devon or Cornwall, you can find and urgent helpline here.


Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: for a reply within 24 hours


Spectrum Life is an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which is a confidential, neutral service provided by an external company to support colleagues at the University. This is just one wellbeing support option for colleagues.  

This free service is offered to University of Exeter staff members and postgraduate students, as well as family members living at their address. Counselling services offered consist of up to 6 sessions per person, 'per problem' of EITHER telephone OR face-to-face counselling. Please note that, if your case is considered to be more complex than can be covered in 6 sessions, Spectrum Life may advise alternative options including free NHS IAPT Talking Therapy Services or private counselling which would not be covered by the University.

Spectrum Life provide a free, confidential and independent resource to help employees balance their work, family and personal lives. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Spectrum Life: Find out more and access

You can self-refer to local Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) Services, a national initiative to make evidence-based psychological therapy accessible to as many people as possible.

IAPT services are free, confidential NHS talking therapy services that can provide support for stress, low mood, anxiety, depression, and help people living with long term health conditions.

IAPT services can help you to feel better and give you tools and techniques to improve your mental and physical wellbeing using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - a time-limited, structured, problem-solving approach that can help you manage anxiety or depression by changing how you think and behave.

Under normal circumstances, groups/courses, face-to-face, telephone and online support are available, although this provision is restricted during the COVID-19 shutdown. There is more information on the NHS website, including evidence on the outcomes of treatment in IAPT. These services are independent from the University, so discussions will be entirely confidential and will not be fed back to your employer.

Access to Work Mental Health Support Service is a confidential service delivered by Maximus. It is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and is available at no charge to any employees with depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues affecting their work. Their specialist advisors can provide:

 Tailored work-focused mental health support for nine months

  • Suitable coping strategies
  • A support plan to keep in, or return to work
  • Ideas for workplace adjustments to help in fulfilling work role
  • Practical advice to support those with a mental health condition

This service is available to anyone in permanent or temporary employment who has a mental health condition (diagnosed or undiagnosed) that has resulted in workplace absence, or is causing difficulties to remain in work.

Grief after bereavement or loss

Most people experience grief when they lose something or someone important to them. If these feelings are affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help. Find out more about the symptoms of grief, bereavement and loss, together with advice and support on the NHS website. It could also help to contact a support organisation such as Cruse Bereavement Care.

Resources for staff and PGRs: