Thousands of university staff take sick leave 'over mental health'

More than 6,700 members of staff were off with conditions including stress, anxiety or depression in the last five years, figures show.

More than 6,700 university staff take sick leave in Scotland due to mental health issues since 2017 iStock

More than 6,700 university staff have taken sick leave because of stress or mental health concerns since 2017/18, figures show.

Figures obtained through freedom of information requests (FOI) showed 1,439 higher education staff missed work for these reasons in the last academic year, 2021/22.

A total of 6,766 staff were off with conditions including stress, anxiety or depression in the last five years, according to the data.

However, the figure is thought to be higher, as not all universities in Scotland submitted the statistics.

The Scottish Conservatives, who carried out the research, have claimed the absences are due to the Scottish Government’s failure to protect the mental wellbeing of education staff.

It follows figures from January which showed 6,670 members of school staff missed work for mental health reasons in 2021/22, with a total of 28,034 off in the last five years.

Pam Gosal, higher education spokesperson for the Tories, said: “These figures are extremely worrying – they point to a mental health crisis in Scottish universities on the SNP’s watch.

“We have already seen an alarming number of stress-related absences among school staff, and it seems that these pressures and strains are also very prevalent in higher education.

“University staff are being pushed to the limit and SNP ministers are simply not giving them the support they badly need.

“With lecturers, teachers and university staff equally scunnered, it is easy to forget that Nicola Sturgeon claimed that education would be her number one priority.

“The First Minister asked to be judged on her education record, but these statistics show just how shameful this record is.

“The SNP’s failures in education are not only letting down young Scottish learners, they are also taking a terrible toll on the mental health of our educators.”

Minister for Higher and Further Education Jamie Hepburn said: “We know the period of lockdown and the ongoing cost of living crisis has had a significant impact on mental health. The Scottish Government has been working with stakeholders, including employer groups and mental health organisations, to promote mentally healthy workplaces.

“Universities as employers have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of their staff, including appropriate mental health support.”

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