The Positive and Mindful University - new report

'This report proposes a new way forward for higher education in addressing the problems of mental health among students as well as staff, and helping them achieve higher levels of fulfilment. More than 400,000 staff and 2.2 million students are engaged in higher education in the United Kingdom.

The pamphlet celebrates the diverse and remarkable work that is taking place at British universities. Much of this work is tilted towards offering support once problems have begun to manifest themselves. The approach in this report, while fully recognising the need for more to be done to help those afflicted by problems, is to create a culture in which students and staff can develop capacities to meet adversities so that problems are less likely to manifest themselves in the first place.

This approach is called ‘positive psychology’ and, as the booklet explains, draws inspiration from the pioneering work at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere from the 1990s onwards. The other principal influence is ‘mindfulness’, introduced in to higher education in the United States from 1979 and in to Britain from 1994.

The analogy that this paper uses is that of a waterfall. The traditional approach in mental, as in physical health, is to be reactive. In contrast, the approach described here is proactive. The traditional approach is to wait for sufferers to become ill, and then to offer support once they hit the bottom of the waterfall. This pamphlet describes work that can take place along the river at the top of the waterfall, which will help reduce the prospect of the individual ever reaching the edge, and falling over'.

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