Human Resources

University Policy on Mental Health

Policy No.
UP10/8
Function
Human Resources
Authoring Organisational Unit
Equity and Diversity Office
Date Approved
17/09/2010 Revised 17/06/2015
Next Review Date
01/11/2018
Approving Body
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor And Registrar

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The University of Western Australia

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University Policy on: Mental Health

Overtype “Policy Name” with the name of the policy.  This must convey specifically, accurately and succinctly what the policy addresses eg Award of Honours, Study Leave.

Purpose of the policy and summary of problems it addresses:

The University has duties under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) (DDA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1984) to protect the rights of staff and students with mental illness, and to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. This policy addresses the management of the mental health and wellbeing of the campus community.

This policy should be read in conjunction with the UWA Disability and Medical Conditions Policy UP12/12.

This must be in Normal, Policy style.

Provide a brief summary of the reasons for the policy and issues it addresses.  This section is designed to stand alone.  The aim is to provide the reader with enough information to make a decision about whether or not this is the policy they are looking for.  It must not be longer than 200 words. 

Example 1

This policy defines the nature and purpose of study leave provisions for academic staff and sets out eligibility criteria and other conditions that apply.

Example 2

This policy seeks to rationalise the award of honours across the University by addressing such issues as: entry standards, course content and structure, supervision, assessment, examination, grades, classifications, benchmarking and the maintenance and provision of documentation relating to these matters.  It is based on resolutions of the Academic Board flowing from the 1999 report of the Honours Working Party.

Definitions:

“Campus community” refers to all the people who frequent the University’s campus.

“Confidentiality” means that employees and students of the University have a right to expect that confidentiality will be maintained wherever possible regarding any suspected or actual mental health problems.

“Duty of confidentiality” requires staff to maintain confidentiality with respect to personal information, but requires them to disclose information when serious concerns arise regarding the safety of an individual or others.

“Duty of care” requires all employees and students to take reasonable care in view of reasonably foreseeable circumstances that may arise. Safety of students, employees and visitors on campus is the first priority in any situation.

“Employee” means any person employed by the University.

“Fit for work” means that an individual is in a state physically and psychologically to perform tasks assigned to them competently and in a manner which does not compromise the safety or health of themselves or others.

Inherent requirements means fundamental requirements of a course or unit, or duties for which an employee has been employed. The onus is on the University to prove objectively that inherent requirements exist in an employment role; or in a course based on substantive, defensible academic rationales, not merely compulsory requirements or traditional practices.

“Mental health” is a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises their abilities, can work productively while coping with the normal stresses of life, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

“Mental health condition” refers to both mental health problems and illnesses.

“Mental health literacy” refers to knowledge and beliefs about mental illnesses which aids their recognition, management or prevention.  Mental health literacy includes:

· the ability to recognise specific illnesses;

· knowledge of where to seek mental health information and professional assistance;

· an understanding of risk factors and causes of mental health problems;

· an understanding that mental health needs to be recognised, and that those experiencing such problems should be encouraged to seek assistance;

· knowledge and understanding of University policies dealing with mental health.

“Mental health problem” affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves, but to a lesser extent than a mental illness. It is a broader term including both mental illness and symptoms of mental illness which may not be severe enough to warrant the diagnosis of mental illness.

“Mental illness” is a diagnosable illness which causes major changes in a person’s thinking, emotional state and behaviour, and disrupts the person’s ability to study or work and carry on their usual personal relationships.

Reasonable adjustment is defined and considered in this policy in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act (1992). Adjustments are considered reasonable when they meet the needs of the student or employee without causing the University unjustifiable hardship. In determining "unjustifiable hardship" the factors to be considered include:

a) the nature of the benefit or detriment likely to accrue or be suffered by any persons concerned; and

b) the effect of a disability of the person concerned;

c) the options there are to meet the requirements of the person with a disability;

d) the estimated expenditure by the University; and

e) the effect (if any) on the academic integrity of a course.

“Student” means any person who is an existing student of the University.

“University” means The University of Western Australia (UWA) and all facilities/locations under the jurisdiction of UWA.

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Policy statement:

The University recognises that good mental health is a state of wellbeing, that helps individuals cope with the normal stresses of work and study, maintain healthy relationships and better contribute to the campus community professionally and personally.

The University takes a sensitive and informed approach to mental health and is committed to

  • ensuring the campus community is aware of and responsive to the needs of those who have, or who are at risk of developing, a mental health problem and
  • assisting members of the campus community to extend their mental health literacy.

Principles

Mental health problems, or mental illness meeting the definition of disability contained in the UWA Disability and Medical Conditions Policy (UP12/12), may be managed under that policy.

The University acknowledges that all employees and students have a role to play in building a safe and healthy environment and culture.

The University supports the needs of those who are currently well by

  • promoting good mental health by providing a study and workplace culture that values, supports and promotes policies and programs for members of the University community to develop their mental health literacy, and improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of students and employees.

· providing education and support to peers, colleagues, supervisors and managers supporting students or employees with a mental health problem.

The University supports those at risk of developing a mental health condition through

· the timely use of education and support strategies, and encouraging students and employees experiencing a mental health problem to seek support and assistance provided on a non-judgmental and confidential basis.

1. Information sharing

In order to assist in the planning and provision of services and facilities, students, employees or visitors are encouraged to bring particular requirements related to mental problems to the attention of the University.

1.1. Disclosure of a mental health problem is not obligatory except where there is operational, or duty of care or inherent requirement obligations, particularly but not limited to, clinical practice, clinical training or safety.

1.2. The University will not require a prospective employee or an employee to provide information related to their mental health if

· the purpose of the request is to unlawfully discriminate against the employee, or

· if employees who do not have a mental health problem would not be required to provide the information in circumstances that are not materially different.

1.3. The University may require information relevant to a mental health problem to determine any reasonable adjustments, or to determine the employee's or prospective employee's ability to perform the inherent requirements of the position.

1.4. All data or documentation in relation to a person’s physical and/or mental health is regarded as sensitive and confidential. Where necessary, any documentary evidence of a person's mental health will be stored according to the University's Records Management Policy.

1.5. Employees are expected to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of student, employee or visitor mental health information except where

· the University's duty of care takes priority, or there is immediate danger to the person or others by withholding that information, or

· adjustments are requested and information related to functional impact will be shared.

Procedure

When possible, it is best to ask a person’s permission before discussing their situation with others.

Consulting others about a situation can be done without identifying the individual. The emphasis is on discussing the situation, rather than the person, to provide the best outcome for the individual.

1.6. Practitioners, employers and education providers are all required by law to make a mandatory notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, (AHPRA) if they have formed a reasonable belief that a registered practitioner or student undertaking clinical training has an impairment that may place the public at substantial risk of harm.

Procedure

Practitioners, employers and education providers are all required by law to report notifiable conduct relating to a registered practitioner or student to Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

How to make a notification

1. Download the Notification Form - NOTF-00 (663 KB,PDF), completing and mailing it to the AHPRA office in your state or territory.

AHPRA
GPO Box 9958
PERTH 6001

More information about mandatory reporting is published on the website. https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Notifications/Make-a-Notification.aspx

2. Mental Health Education

To foster awareness and encourage informed and non-discriminatory attitudes of employees and students towards people with mental illness, the University will facilitate workshops and provide online information for students and employees that focus on mental health.

2.1. It is the responsibility of school supervisors and managers to be aware of the legislation and policies relating to mental health.

Procedure

Mental Health First Aid training is available for employee and students at UWA.

Stressless provides useful tips for students on managing the combined pressures of studying and enjoying university life.

The Mental Health General Support Guidelines provide a set of general instructions for assisting someone who appears to demonstrate a mental health problem. Taking the time to read these guidelines will assist members of the campus community to extend their mental health literacy and increase their competence in providing appropriate advice, assistance and support if needed.

3. Duty of care to students, employees and visitors

Safety of students, employees and visitors on campus is the first priority in any situation.

3.1. Duty of care obligations require all employees and students to exercise care in view of reasonably foreseeable circumstances that may arise.

3.2 No member of the University community should go beyond their level of competence in trying to advise or support an individual and should, as soon as possible, refer the matter to an appropriately skilled staff member.

4. Inherent Requirements

The University is committed to removing barriers to a student’s full participation in their studies and to an employee’s full participation in the workplace, while acknowledging the inherent requirements of the course or unit of study, job or role.  

5. Study and Workplace Support and Modifications

An employee or student may seek reasonable adjustments to the workplace or their studies to accommodate mental health conditions.

5.1. Wherever possible, students with a mental health condition will be assessed by the same procedures that apply to all students. However, reasonable adjustment of the standard assessment methods may be provided.

Procedure

UniAccess Disability Office can provide advice, assistance and support to students with a mental health condition.

Registering with UniAccess can streamline processes for accommodating a mental health problem or illness.

Accommodations such as ‘special consideration allow faculties to take into account significant and unforseen factors that may have affected a student’s performance.

Special consideration allows a faculty to make informed and fair decisions concerning a student’s academic progress including decisions around extensions for assignments, withdrawal or course changes, determining final grades in a unit of study, or approval of deferred examinations.

5.2. Where an employee discloses a mental health condition, the University has a duty of care priority under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992), and where possible, to maintain the employee in their current position and work area and to provide reasonable adjustments where the inherent requirements of the position can be met.

Procedure

Employees should first make the relevant supervisor aware of a mental health condition that may have an impact on their ability to perform the full range of duties associated with their role.

Where an employee discloses a mental health condition, under the Disability Discrimination Act DDA (1992), the University duty of care is priority and where possible, to maintain the employee in their current position and work area and to provide reasonable adjustments where the inherent requirements of the position can be met.

Possibilities for making reasonable adjustments in the workplace will be assessed by the University's Occupational Therapist. Each case must be assessed individually with consideration given to balancing the interests of all parties affected.

For those instances where the member of the community is the first point of contact for another member with a mental health problem, the Mental Health General Support Guidelines in this Policy provide a set of general instructions for responding in a sensitive and supportive manner. In situations that may constitute an emergency refer to the Mental Health Crisis Flow Chart.

Employees or students who have been involved in a crisis or series of events related to mental health, may benefit from  the services provided by UWA Counselling and Psychological Services, or in the case of an employee, also by the employee assistance program.

6. Fitness for study or work

Some behaviour associated with a mental health problem may be perceived by others as threatening, disruptive, or intimidating, and may constitute misconduct which may be dealt with under Statute 17 for students, or the appropriate enterprise agreement for employees.

6.1. For Employees

6.1.1. Under the Fair Work Act, the University must not take adverse action against an employee or prospective employee on the ground of disability except where the inherent requirements of the particular position are concerned.

6.1.2. Where the mental health problem means the person is unable to fulfil the inherent requirements of the job, the University maintains the right to transfer the person to a more suitable position, where one exists, at their current rate of pay and managed under the University policy on transfers and secondments (including staff exchanges UP07/198).

6.1.3. Where there is reason to doubt the fitness of an employee to be in the workplace in relation to the safety or wellbeing of themselves or others, the University maintains the right to require an employee to attend a fitness for work assessment at no cost to the employee.

6.1.4. In keeping with the provisions of the DDA and the Fair Work Act (2009), it is not unlawful for the University to discriminate against an employee on the ground of disability if or because the person would not be able to carry out the inherent requirements of the particular work even if reasonable adjustments were made for the employee (including promotion and transfer to such work).

6.1.5. If there are any concerns identified about an employee’s state of mental health affecting the activities of others, a medical assessment may be sought before implementing the procedures for managing unsatisfactory performance and behaviour of professional employees or the process for managing unsatisfactory performance and behaviour of academic employees.

6.1.6. The University may require, in writing, an employee whose performance of duties is in doubt for an unreasonable period, to undergo a medical examination by a medical practitioner chosen by and at the expense of the University.

Procedure

In the first instance, requests for a medical assessment of an employee’s fitness to attend work are facilitated through the Director of Human Resources.

An employee may obtain a fitness for work assessment from a health practitioner of their choosing. Any further actions and accommodations should be in line with the medical assessment and any period of monitoring and reassessment determined.

In such instances the confidentiality of the employee’s health status will be maintained.

6.2.  For Students

6.2.1. Any student's eligibility for a course or unit is subject only to those selection criteria, including the ability to meet the inherent requirements, which are ordinarily applied to applicants for that course or unit given reasonable adjustments wherever possible.

6.2.2. Course and unit preference and choice should not be influenced by the level or type of mental health status, unless even with the provision of reasonable adjustments the student would be unable to meet the inherent requirements of the course of study.

6.2.3. The same academic standard as demonstrated through the learning outcomes shall prevail for all students. Wherever possible, students with a mental health condition will be assessed by the same procedures that apply to all students. However, reasonable adjustment of the standard assessment methods may be provided.

Procedure

University appointed course advisers, in consultation with a Disability Officer  (UniAccess) can provide counselling for appropriate course choice as required

Employees and students should be familiar with the procedures laid down in the University's policies on special consideration, and applications for alternative examination arrangements.

Application for special consideration and alternative examination arrangements should be made according to these policies. Students and staff can seek help and clarification from UniAccess or Student Services.

6.2.4   Where there is reason to suspect that a student’s behaviour is indicative of a mental illness, or their performance has been negatively impacted by a mental health condition, the University maintains the right to request a student attend a medical assessment to determine their fitness to continue with their studies in their current state of mental health.

Procedure

Requests for a medical assessment of a student’s fitness to continue studying are facilitated through the Director of Students Services at no cost to the student.

Students may attend a medical professional of their choosing.

A report on the student’s mental health would be released to the University only with the student’s consent. Any further actions and accommodations should be in line with the medical assessment and any period of monitoring and reassessment determined. The University must be satisfied that a student is fit for study.

6.2.5   A student’s behaviour that could reasonably be perceived as threatening, disruptive or intimidating, may constitute misconduct and be subject to disciplinary action under the University’s Regulations for Student Conduct and Discipline – Statute 17.

Procedure

Sources of Assistance and Professional Help

The University encourages all members of the campus community to seek assistance and professional help, whether for themselves, a peer, colleague, friend or family member. The University has a number of service providers for this purpose.

The University provides a free and confidential counselling service on campus for students through UWA Counselling and Psychological Services.

Employees and students are encouraged to consult their GP or local mental health services. The University Medical Centre provides general practice services on campus.

The Robin Winkler Clinic is a clinical psychology unit that provides individual and group therapy for adults, children, and adolescents of all backgrounds with a wide range of difficulties.

Additional Sources of Assistance for Students

UniAccess provides services and assistance for students with a disability or medical condition.

Students can seek advice and assistance from a Guild Education Officer in the Student Guild.

Additional Sources of Assistance for Employees

The University provides a free Employee Assistance Program to employees and their immediate family for personal or work-related issues by PPC Worldwide.

For problems relating to mental health, medical conditions or impairment, including adjustments to the workplace or role to accommodate a medical condition or impairment, contact Equity and Diversity or the Senior Occupational Therapist in Safety and Health, within Human Resources.

24 Hour Confidential Telephone Assistance

Health Direct – 1800 222 022

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Men’s Line Australia – 1300 789 978

Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Optum (employee assistance providers) – 1300 361 008

7. Return to work

A staff member’s return to work may be managed under the Disability and Medical Conditions Policy at the local level.

Procedure

A staff member’s return to work may be managed under the Disability and Medical Conditions Policy.

When a person has been off work for a period due to their mental health condition, they may require a graduated return to work. Accommodations such as restricted duties, reduced hours of work, or another flexible work arrangement can assist the person by allowing sufficient time to recover from their illness.

These are usually managed at the local level through open and supportive discussions to identify what the person needs and how best the University can assist. For more information and advice, contact the Occupational Therapists in Safety and Health on Ext. 3938.

The Employee Assistance Program provider Optum has a Manager Assistance hotline for further advice and assistance.

8. Mental health resources

8.1. Mental health general support guidelines will be made available by the University.

8.2. Complaints against this policy, or discrimination or harassment can be lodged under the University Complaint Resolution policy.

Procedure

Mental Health General Support Guidelines

These guidelines are set of general instructions for assisting someone who appears to have a mental health problem.

These guidelines are set of general instructions for assisting someone who appears to have a mental health problem.

1. Create a non-threatening atmosphere. Invite the person to sit with you. Reduce distractions.

2. Listen non-judgementally. Express empathy for emotional distress, use encouraging prompts and do not interrupt the person when they are speaking. Pauses and silences are okay.

3. As you talk with the person, be on the lookout for any indications that the person may be in crisis. These may include disturbing behaviour, psychotic state or expressions of self-harm or suicide. Refer to the Mental Health Crisis flow chart for further information.

4. Give support and information. Reassure the person that you are there to help and support them. Assure them that help is available and things can get better.

5. Try to find out what type of assistance they need. Ask who or what will help them. If possible, offer them choices as to how you can help them. Do not make any promises you cannot keep.

6. Encourage support from family and friends. Offer to contact family or friends if required. Offer to stay with them until support arrives.

7. Encourage professional support, whether on campus or their own medical practitioner. Assist with making appointments if needed.

Further information can be found at the Mental Health First Aid website and mental health support services and resources website.

9. Mental Health Crisis

In any situation where there is a possibility that a student, employee or visitor is in danger of causing harm to themselves or others, Campus Security should be contacted as soon as possible.

Procedure

Mental Health Crisis Flow Chart provides a series of steps to follow when faced with a possible mental health crisis.

In an emergency contact campus security on:

Ext. 2222 – UWA internal phone system

6488 2222 – for mobiles, or from off campus

1800 655 222 – from a public phone on campus

Staff or students who have been involved in a crisis or series of events related to mental health, may benefit from  the services provided by UWA Counselling and Psychological Services, or in the case of an employee, also by the employee assistance provider.

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Related Policies or legislation:

Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992

WA Disability Services Act 1992

WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984

WA Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984

UWA Charter of student rights and responsibilities

UWA Code of ethics and Code of conduct

UWA Disability action and inclusion action plan

UWA Disability and medical conditions policy

UWA Equal opportunity and affirmative action policy statement

UWA Transfers and secondments (including staff exchanges)

UWA Unsatisfactory performance and behaviour – Academic staff

UWA Unsatisfactory performance and behaviour – Professional staff

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