Taking time out this Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health awareness week - EDI BLOG

What I love about writing this blog is that I usually have so much EDI activity across the university to celebrate that I never quite know where to start – and this month is no exception! March saw the celebration of International Women’s Month, focusing on education and awareness around menopause and menstruation. Following the array of events during the month, and the hard work completed by those involved in ‘Project Period’, I am pleased to say that the university has committed to providing free sanitary products for staff and students across UK campuses long term.

As part of our strategic EDI priority of Diversifying the Workforce, we are holding a jobs fair on Wednesday 17 May at Lakeside Arts to encourage our students, staff, and the wider community to come and explore the employment opportunities on offer. We are keen to increase the number of staff from underrepresented groups at the university and we’d welcome your support in spreading the word about the fair to all communities, through word of mouth or social media.

We are also currently refreshing the academic promotions paperwork. This will make the webpages and process more accessible, more inclusive and reduce workload for applicants. This work aligns with our EDI strategic priority of ensuring reward, recognition, and career progression for all staff. If you are considering applying for promotion in the 23/24 round, please wait until the beginning of June to start the application process.

As we celebrate National Mental Health Awareness Week, I hope your wellbeing has benefitted from a little extra time off with the Bank Holidays that the month of May affords. If you can this week, try and find a few minutes for yourself and come to the Monica Partridge building to have a look at the amazing and inspiring photographs taken by our students and staff demonstrating ‘What Mental Health Means to Me’.

The exhibition, with support from the Student Photography Society and Ade Mawdsley, Mosina Susiwala, Charlotte Lush and Jo Lambert, was conceived to raise awareness and break down the stigma around mental health, to acknowledge the impact mental illness has on carers and supporters of those who are unwell and to offer the opportunity to engage in some mindfulness through photography. If these issues are currently impacting on your life, links to support for staff and students are also publicised through the exhibition.

If you look closely, you will spot the mauve teapot and floral biscuit tin that is my entry ‘Tea and Biscuits on the Lawn’. Thirteen years ago, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), following routine diagnostic surgery that became life threatening. When I was diagnosed, I didn’t tell anyone, not work, not friends and not my family. Only my husband knew. I carried on teaching students Anatomy, looking after my then two very small children and caring for my Dad, who had Parkinsons. Why? I was frightened people would judge me if I took time away from work. I had already experienced discrimination and been marginalised for being a woman working part time due to caring responsibilities and I feared that admitting that I was experiencing challenges around my mental health would just corroborate the opinions of those who thought I wasn’t committed to my career or good enough.

I learnt that you can’t outrun poor mental health, however hard you try. Eventually, I had to be honest with myself and those around me and this was the first and most important step towards getting better. And the tea and biscuits, where do they come in? My first steps to recovery were giving myself permission to stop, take time out with my own thoughts, and do something pleasurable. In the early days, given the busyness of my life, even just having a cup of tea and biscuit felt like overindulgent self-care.

However, I quickly learnt that it was in fact a simple and effective way to ground myself and to work through the thoughts and feelings I had as part of my PTSD. Some extensive therapy and medication later, I am fully recovered and acutely aware of the warning signs when I am not looking after myself, which makes my mental health vulnerable. That’s when you’ll find me in front of the kettle, brewing up and rummaging around in the biscuit tin to find a custard cream or two!

Professor Katherine Linehan 
How to say my name 
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and People
15 May 2023

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Trent Building
University Park Campus