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Enhancing Higher Education Teaching and Learning through Culturally Sensitive Mental Health Approaches

Wednesday 3 July: 5:30pm – 7:00pm, poster session



Dr Lukasz Swiatek
The University of New South Wales, Australia

Dr Ursula Edgington



Organisations in multiple sectors have increasingly realised that mental health support for individuals needs to be provided in culturally competent ways. Ever-larger international migration flows have resulted in more culturally and linguistically diverse populations that require varying mental health services. Without culturally competent support, individuals from diverse backgrounds may not receive access to the information and treatment they need (Rickwood, 2006).

Higher education institutions have a particular need and social responsibility to provide culturally competent mental health services, given the increasingly international make-up of their workforces (Scott, 2000; The Economist, 2015). At the same time, universities have faced growing criticisms for not meeting the needs of their increasingly culturally diverse staff (Jolin, 2016) and not providing enough mental health support for employees (Gorczynski, 2018). When academic staff (especially teaching staff) are mentally unwell and face ongoing obstacles to discharging their duties, they cannot adequately support students or deliver quality teaching.


Research/evaluation method

This poster presents the results of original research that examines the extent to which (and the ways in which) universities are providing employees with culturally competent mental health support. Using qualitative content analysis, it examines universities’ policies and other organisational communication collateral to uncover evidence of this kind of support. The policies and other organisational communication collateral of universities in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand are investigated, due to these universities’ location in richly multicultural (and, in the case of Aotearoa New Zealand, bicultural) populations. Drawing on the broad cross-sector culturally competent mental health literature, the poster also suggests other potential support initiatives for universities.



The poster delivers outcomes for staff (in knowing which culturally sensitive mental health approaches are currently available), academic developers (in understanding how staff are and are not currently supported), and education policymakers (in realising which institutional gaps need to be filled).




Gorczynski, P. (2018, February 22). More academics and students have mental health problems than ever before. The Conversation. Retrieved from:
Gorczynski, P. F., Hill D., & Rathod, S. (2017). Examining the Construct Validity of the Transtheoretical Model to Structure Workplace Physical Activity Interventions to Improve Mental Health in Academic Staff. EMS Community Medicine Journal, 1(1), 1-4. Retrieved from:
Jolin, L. (2016, November 23). Do universities’ workforces reflect the diversity of their students?. The Guardian. Retrieved from:
Rickwood, D. (2006). Pathways of Recovery: Preventing Further Episodes of Mental Illness. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia Department of Health. Retrieved from:
Scott, P. 2000. Globalisation and higher education: Challenges for the 21st century. Journal of Studies in International Education, 4(1): 3-10
The Economist (2015, March 28). The world is going to university. The Economist. Retrieved from
Watts, J. & Robertson, N. (2010). Burnout in university teaching staff: a systematic literature review. Educational Research, 53(1), 33-50.


Presentation topic

Poster session

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