While the Covid pandemic created many tensions and pressures, some related to the impact of working from home, it also emphasized the urgent need for mental health discussions to become more prevalent in society.
In 2022, the UK-based charity, HUMEN, created the first University Mental Health League Table, providing universities in the UK with a total mental health score based on factors such as financing, awareness, and provision of mental health support services.
As top business schools and universities in Europe look for ways to enhance the student experience and break down barriers to education, schools are approaching mental health in nuanced ways.
France, in particular, is driving mental health support at business school, advocating the need for mental health education to form part of the curriculum.
Why is it important for education providers to tackle mental health? What are business schools in Europe doing to tackle student mental health? BusinessBecause spoke to top business schools in Europe to find out.
1. Wellness workshops at business school
One business school that’s taking an active approach to destigmatizing mental health is NEOMA Business School in Paris.
The school, which is known for its focus on entrepreneurship and sustainability in its suite of masters in management programs, has introduced an annual Wellness Week to educate students about everything from the link between nutrition and good mental health to the role of exercise during stressful exam periods.
The Wellness Week is organized by the school’s mental health professionals, nurses, and students.
Students can drop in and out of sessions across the week—activities are varied and may include trying out Japanese massage or self-defense classes, engaging with sexual health education, or simply taking time out to relax in designated ‘Zen’ spaces.
Anna Kosorukova is a Master’s in Luxury Marketing student at NEOMA’s Paris campus and attended the Wellness Week. She believes business schools play a vital role in supporting business school students with their mental health.
“It’s important to maintain good mental health as you’ll encounter challenging situations in business,” she says, “by supporting mental health, schools are showing that they value us as people and want to help us deal with life’s daily problems.”
According to Champion Health, anxiety, depression, and stress are some of the most common mental health issues in the workplace environment. The same source states that almost 60% of working professionals tackle at least mild forms of anxiety.
“The most interesting part of wellness week has been the education on sexuality and nutrition—I really admire that the school provides opportunities to learn how to be more conscious and ethical in our behavior,” Anna says.
NEOMA has an annual wellness week, which involves self-defence classes (pictured)
2. Year-round mental health support
Activities and events are important for creating a likeminded community of people at business school who are conscious about mental wellbeing support. The support shouldn’t end there, however.
It’s important that business schools and universities provide psychological support in the form of counselling, therapy sessions, or group meetings. To be effective, mental health support needs to function as round-the-clock care, and not just an annual event.
Delphine Manceau is the dean of NEOMA and plays a key role in overseeing the Wellness Center, which was launched in 2018. Factors such as the Covid pandemic have only increased the need for mental health support at the school.
“Business schools or universities need to help students manage this key moment of change in their lives—it’s part of our role.”
All year round, NEOMA Business Schools offers personalized support for disabled students, psychological counselling, and operates an anti-violence advocacy and prevention unit.
“We handle very different situations ranging from daily stressors that students encounter to serious situations where it's important that we provide students with access to medical support,” she says.
3. Mental health in the b-school classroom
Many business schools and universities are trying to weave mental health support into their teaching method and classroom delivery. This can sometimes mean offering students the choice to leave the room for a short break or inviting guest speakers to talk about their experience of mental health in the workplace.
“We offer inspiring conferences from professors or external experts on how to deal with poor mental health and how to re-energize people and share experiences,” says Caroline Roussel, dean of IÉSEG School of Management in Lille, France.
One professor at IÉSEG delivered a talk about strategizing life while a stressful situation or event is happening. This was intended for both those struggling with their mental health or those who simply want to know how to focus on the things that matter within a business context.
Some schools are helping to make a more supportive business school environment during class by enabling students to speak to professors one-on-one after class, in person or online, if they prefer.
“Professors play an important role in supporting our students, even if it’s just to say hello at the end of the course and having an informal discussion,” Caroline says.
During the pandemic, the director of pedagogy at IÉSEG trained professors on how to connect with students and deliver classes in an interactive way during Zoom, ensuring that the online learning environment wasn’t a barrier to engagement.
Students at NEOMA can learn how to de-stress using yoga during the business school's Wellness Week (pictured)
4. Financial help to relieve stress
Financial concerns can cause a huge strain on students’ lives, especially those who are already impacted by mental health or other issues.
Many business schools reserve funds to help students financially support themselves throughout business school—whether this is a tuition fee waiver or discounted access to career or networking events, a little can go a long way in reducing students’ anxieties during difficult times.
To find out whether financial support could help certain students, ESSCA School of Management, which has campuses across France and in Budapest and Shanghai, provides surveys to students to find out how they are coping and whether they are facing any financial difficulties.
This strategy began during the pandemic but now the school provides these surveys every four months to better understand students’ needs.
Delphine from NEOMA agrees that sustained financial support for students who need it is important to help students feel supported during their studies.
“It’s really important that money is never an issue for our students,” she says.
NEOMA recognizes that financial difficulties can be a cause of stress and tension, which is why the Wellness Center and the Student Support Service work together on tackling such problems. Aside from offering scholarships, the school can offer students access to equipment such as laptops, or fund consultations with a psychologist.
It’s commonly understood nowadays that mental health should be no less a priority than physical health. Beginning the business school journey is exciting, but it can also be a trigger for anxiety, stress, and worry, and more and more schools are understanding the simple ways they can support students.
"Students who attend business schools that prioritize mental health will have a completely different view on wellness and they can take this knowledge in to their future careers,” Delphine from NEOMA says.