Category Archives: Mental Health

Ensuring those with mental health conditions in our community are supported with their condition while continuing to be treated fairly, equally and without stigma.

Demystifying Leadership: Head of the School of Psychology (Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon)

As part of our Demystifying Leadership blog series, we’ve chatted to staff in a variety of leadership positions across the Faculty. To help you find out more about what a Head of School role might be like, I spoke to Professor Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon about her job as Head of the School of Psychology in FMS.

What are your main responsibilities in your role?

I lead and manage the School of Psychology. My role is quite diverse, but it primarily focuses on the learning and teaching experience. I work with approximately 35 academic members of staff (whom I manage directly) and about 11 or 12 admin staff to run and deliver a number of Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Professional Training programmes under the School of Psychology.

What does an average day look like for you?

I don’t think there is an average day, to be quite honest. The largest amount of my time is spent strategically, making sure our School’s teaching plan is on track, and working with external organisations to ensure we have the right partnerships in place and that we’re developing new professional placements for students.

Another important part of my role is the leadership and mentoring of staff (academics, in particular). I review their personal development and manage any day-to-day issues, as well as the relationships between them. Due to the School’s recent growth in student numbers, I’m also often shortlisting or interviewing new academics to teach.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I particularly enjoy the mentoring of staff. Since beginning working with them, I’ve seen a number of them be very successful and receive promotions on the basis of learning and teaching. This makes me particularly happy, as it shows the University values the learning and teaching advancement process.

Additionally, as I know my staff very well, I’m able to look strategically at the School to find projects that would be well-suited to the skill set of a certain staff member. So, to then see them flourish in that project makes me very happy.

What made you want to apply for the role?

At the time, I was an associate Dean for Research at Faculty-level in another institution, where I managed research across a diverse range of disciplines. I had been looking to get back into my own discipline again, so this leadership role was perfect, and I’ve really enjoyed being back in Psychology. I also knew the University wanted this School to grow, so I was excited that there was real opportunity to make a lot of big changes.

What do you think is your biggest achievement so far in your role?

As a result of our growth as a School, the University has invested in a state-of-the-art learning and teaching space within a new building. It will include specialised teaching spaces, such as a forensic laboratory and a psychological therapies clinic. It will be a fantastic environment for all our students and staff.

I feel these new resources are a symbol of our recent success and the University’s belief and trust in me.

What learning opportunities have been available to you in your role?

In much of my career previous to this role, I’ve had to learn on the job, through trial and error, which has been a massive challenge. But within this role, I have done a senior leadership course, which was quite useful, and also a mentoring course, where I did learn a lot, even about myself.

Have you been supported by colleagues, mentors or training opportunities?

I feel extremely supported by the University and the Faculty, and there are some very approachable people with real integrity here. The PVC has been very willing to listen and develop strategic plans. I couldn’t have grown the School to in such a way had the University not resourced more academic posts and invested in a new building for us. This makes me feel as though I’ve been listened to and I’ve been trusted to drive this growth.

The previous Undergraduate Dean (Jane Calvert) has also been fantastic and she was my go-to person when I needed a sounding board. The Heads of other Units also provide peer support and we regularly talk and share advice. Finally, I get a lot of day-to-day support from my colleagues in my school, with whom I have very good relationships and are always there to help with whatever I need.

What has your role taught you about yourself?

My current role has taught me how good I am with people. In my previous job, I was trying to manage 400 people and was never able to get to know them as individuals. So, at Newcastle, I’ve had the chance to realise that I work very well with individuals when I can get to know them, and that I am able to bring out the best in people.

However, management also often involves some very difficult conversations, and I’ve learnt that I can handle this. I’ve become good at knowing exactly when you must put your own emotions aside and how to always maintain my objectivity in tricky situations.

What have you found more challenging in your role?

The diversity of things I have to deal with on a daily basis. We’re a complicated School with 8 Undergraduate programmes (previously we had just 1, when I started). Several of our Postgraduate programmes also involve quite complicated relationships with external organisations such as the NHS, so dealing with the changes in these organisations can be very tricky.

How do you balance the role with your research and/or external commitments (families, hobbies etc.)?

I’m not doing very much research now. I do some through PhD students, but this is importantly their research and not mine. However, I was aware of this when I took the role; it was a very deliberate move for me and I felt it was right for this stage in my career. I do also still do some teaching. In the autumn semester I teach on some of the Masters and Undergraduate courses, and I supervise some of their projects.

In respect to balancing my work with my home life, it’s all about flexibility. I feel I’m getting better at it as my children are getting older. When they were younger I had to work very flexibly and bring them into the office, and also worked at home and in the evenings. So now, by being able to work more in the office, it allows me a better balance and to keep home life more separate. As a School, we’ve agreed to restrict emailing hours, to control the quantity of email traffic being sent in the evenings and weekends. This is something I feel I’ve learnt from my own experiences, which will improve people’s work life balance in the future.

What advice would you give to your successor?

I would tell them to always value and get to know your staff, and to be flexible with them. For the School to flourish, you must get the best out of each member of staff, and this is often done by being willing to be flexible in terms of work-life balance. You can never have a firm rule, you must always do things on an individual basis.

Additionally, I would emphasise to never allow hierarchy within the team from junior to more senior members of staff. Everyone is equal and is respected. As long as they are doing their job to the best of their ability and helping to drive the School forward then I am happy.

Thank you to Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon for chatting to us about her role! We hope this has given you an insight into what being Head of a School might be like!

Flexible Working: Amanda Weston

As part of our blog series designed to celebrate flexible working week in the UK, and raise awareness about the benefits of flexible working, I spoke to Amanda Weston, who works at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, about her experiences working part time.

What role do you work part time in?

I’m a Clinical Project Coordinator at 60% FTE. I provide admin support to clinical trials in the field of dementia. But I’m currently on redeployment, so I’m looking for another role.

Have your hours changed over time?

A little. I started working part time 8 years ago, and began on 50% FTE. Then, in my next role, I increased my hours slightly to 60% FTE, and stayed on those when I moved into my current role. However, the next role I’m looking at will likely be 80% FTE, which may not give me the same work-life balance as I’ve enjoyed in my previous roles.

What have you done recently in your part time role that you’re proud of?

I recently finished supporting a video for clinicians that raises awareness about dementia. I’ve also helped organise a big upcoming conference at the Centre for Life about a study I support.

What advantages or opportunities has working part time brought you?

Working part time has given me a much better work-life balance and a more rounded experience of life in general. As well as being able to care for my elderly parents, I’ve got really into yoga in my time off, and I’m actually going on a yoga retreat in Turkey next week, which I definitely wouldn’t have got the opportunity to do on full time hours!

What challenges did you face while working part time?

The main challenge for me has been that it’s very difficult to secure an open-ended job on part time hours, as many research part time roles are fixed term contracts attached to a specific grant or form of funding. This can be very difficult, but you just have to remain positive that the next role will come and be confident in your own abilities.

Where did you find support while working part time?

Generally, I see myself as fairly self-sufficient, but I have found my immediate work colleagues to be a really good support. The University Registrar, John Hogan, has also been particularly supportive of my development, as he has funded my study for an AUA Postgraduate Certificate.

What would you do differently if you had your time again?

If I had my time again I would make a more decisive choice to diversify within other areas of Higher Education, to make myself more flexible. I’ve worked in the same area for 8 years now, and believe that it’s not necessarily a good thing to become so specialised within a niche sector.

What do you think the University could do to help support part time workers like yourself?

Currently, when your being redeployed you’re only able to apply for jobs at the same grade as your current role, which can make career progression harder for staff on fixed term contracts, as we often only change jobs when our contract comes to an end. It would be nice if the University altered their policy so that perhaps, if you had been in the role for a certain number of years, you would able to apply for a higher grade job during redeployment.

I’ve also been talking to Candy Rowe, FMS’ Director of Diversity, about developing a database where part time workers could register and be paired with similar people across the University to apply for a full time role as a job share. I believe this would create a lot more opportunities for part time staff.

We hope you enjoyed hearing from Amanda about some of the challenges and opportunities she’s had while working part-time.

We’ll be running this blog series for the next few weeks, so if you currently work part time at NU and would be interested in talking about flexible working, we want to hear from you! To take part, please get in contact with Georgia Spencer.

FMS EDI Week Programme: 21st-25th January 2019

FMS is holding its very first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week – why not come along and get involved?

We are holding the Faculty’s first EDI Week for our staff and students to celebrate our recent Athena SWAN Silver Award for our work towards gender equality. There will be a range of activities and events that not only reflect on our recent achievement, but consider where we go from here in order to provide more inclusive work and study environments that give everyone equal opportunity to succeed.

Take a look at what is on, and book early! We hope to see you at one of our events!

#FMSEDIWeek19


21st January:

  • Why does EDI matter? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    We launch the week by hearing from members of the senior leadership team about why EDI is important to our Faculty and the people who work and study here. Read more and register.
    X
  • EDI and TechNET – 1-2pm, The Boardroom
    Members of our technicians network talk about how EDI is central to the work that they do both in the Faculty and across the University. Read more and register.
    X
  • How to embed EDI in the Professional Pathway? – 2-3pm, The Boardroom
    Our Director of Faculty Operations, Katharine Rogers, will talk about the new professional pathway and how EDI is being embedded into its development. Read more and register.

22nd January:

  • EDI at NUMed Malaysia – 10-11am, Leech L2.9
    Come and meet Chris Baldwin, CEO and Provost at NUMed, to find out more about their approach to EDI in Malaysia. Read more and register.
    X
  • Mindfulness – 12.30-1.30pm, Leech L2.8
    An introductory session led by our very own Michael Atkinson. Read more and register.
    X
  • EDI Bites: What is Athena SWAN? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    Our EDI Team explains what Athena SWAN is, what our Silver Award means, and what our plans are for progressing gender equality over the next four years. Read more and register.
  • Athena SWAN: An institutional perspective – 3-4pm, The Boardroom
    Judith Rankin, the Dean of EDI, will talk about the university’s application for a Silver Award renewal, which will be submitted in April. Read more and register.

23rd January:

  • EDI design principles for FMS  – 12-2pm, Colin Ingram Seminar Room (IoN)
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team hold an interactive session to hear your views about how EDI should guide FMS in the future. Read more and register.
    X
  • Why should we become conscious of our Unconscious Biases? – 2-3pm, Leech L2.2
    Tom Smulders and the IoN EDI Team run an introductory session about unconscious bias and how to combat it. Read more and register.

24th January:

  • EDI Lunchtime Fair – 12-2pm, the Atrium/Entrance to the Medical School
    For staff and postgraduates to find out more about different networks, mentoring schemes, support for wellbeing, and get a chance to speak to EDI representatives. Light bites provided. Please register your interest for catering purposes.
    X
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – 12.45, Entrance to the Medical School
    The Pro-Vice Chancellor of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award to mark the achievement that the award represents.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10.30am-12pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents to launch NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on its progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions. Read more and register.
    X
  • Friday Fizz and Feedback – 4-5pm, The Atrium
    Join the Faculty EDI team for a glass of celebratory fizz and tell us what you thought of our first EDI Week, or what you’d like to see next year at EDI Week 2020! Bucks fizz and non-alcoholic sparkling provided. Register your interest for catering purposes here.

FMS EDI Week 21st-25th January – save the date!

FMS will be holding its very first EDI Week from the 21st – 25th of January – why not get involved?

The week is firstly to celebrate our successes so far, with the unveiling of our Athena SWAN silver award, which recognises our achievements in promoting and progressing gender equality for all staff and students. However, as well as reflecting how far we have come, we will also be thinking about what we would like to achieve, and will be running a number of events and activities that staff and students can get involved with.

Although we are still confirming some events (final programme to be announced early January), we have some already pencilled in and you can get the times into your diary now!


21st January:

  • Launch Event – 12-1pm,
    “Why does EDI matter?” – hear from staff about why EDI matters to them.
    X
  • EDI and the Professional Pathway – 2-3pm,
    Katherine Rogers, Director of Faculty Operations

22nd January:

  • EDI Bitesize: “What is Athena SWAN?” – 2-3pm
    Candy Rowe, Director of EDI for FMS will explain what Athena SWAN is and what it means for the Faculty.
    X
  • Athena SWAN Silver for Newcastle University – 3-4pm
    Judith Rankin, Dean of Diversity will talk about the work currently going on to renew the University’s institutional Silver Athena SWAN Award.
    X
  • Wellbeing Session – lunchtime (TBC)
    Session hosted by Michael Atkinson on mindfulness.

23rd January:

  • EDI Design Principles for FMS  – 12-2pm
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team will run a session about embedding EDI into faculty working in the future.

24th January:

  • EDI Fair – 12-2pm
    A fair to showcase information and get a chance to speak to the EDI Team, representatives from different staff/PGR networks, and the ECR Mentoring Scheme.
    X
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – lunchtime (TBC)
    PVC of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award and celebrate the incredible work and achievement the award symbolises.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10am – 12pm
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents. It will provide information on NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions.

World Mental Health Day: Just Ask

 Today (Wednesday 10th of October) is World Mental Health Day. Every year, 1 in 4 people experience mental health difficulties, and sometimes you just need someone to talk to.

We spoke to Mark Bendall, a volunteer for Just Ask, about how the network supports staff and promotes good mental health at work.

Can you tell me a bit about what Just Ask does?

We are a group of volunteers, independent from the University, who are trained to provide non-judgmental, confidential advice to staff. We are a stepping stone for staff, to give them a chance to explore their options without going through the more formal University channels.

Our volunteers are excellent. A mixture of long standing and newer volunteers that were recruited two years ago, they have gained lots of training and experience, meaning they are sensible and really know what they’re doing.

Why do you feel Just Ask is so important to staff?

While we aren’t a counselling service, and only usually offer one meeting, maximum two, we still have an enormous impact on those we speak to. Many who speak to us have had our service recommended to them by colleagues, which shows the impact we’ve had.

For many, it is the first time they are able to speak about their problem, and it gives people a space to fully express their concerns and emotions, without fear of judgement. We hope that people see the service as something that’s there for them when they need it, and that the advice we give is empowering and provides a sense of control.

Can you tell me a bit about how Just Ask came about?

Initially, we were two separate volunteering groups, one which helped with bullying, and the other with stress. When we came together, we sat down and discussed what we would be, and broadened the areas in which we offer support. Until recently, we have been looked after by HR, but are now an independent volunteering group under the University Health and Safety Service.

Why did you choose to volunteer for Just Ask?

I had been active in trade union and while part of the union, I developed an interest in helping people with bullying at work. Here, I saw that there were often cases where people felt that they were being bullied, but by talking to them about the situation I was able to help them see if this was really the case and understand their situation more clearly. This was something I hoped I could do as a Just Ask volunteer.

Where would you like to see the network go in the future?

Because we have moved under the Safety Office, as part of the University’s broader wellbeing strategy, this has made Just Ask much more robust and will allow us to do a lot more for staff and have more regular meetings for the volunteers.

We also hope this new structure will promote the service more, and allow us to reach more people.

If you’re a staff member at Newcastle University and would like to find out more about Just Ask, or other resources the University offers to promote staff wellbeing, please click here.

Alternatively, if you’re a student and feel you need some support, you can contact Nightline or the Student Wellbeing Service.