Not everyone with a mental illness will require time away from their work or study, some people. In some cases, remaining at work can actually play a very important role in a person's recovery – as it can provide a daily structure and routine and give the candidate a sense of purpose, along with social contact and financial security.
However, as with physical illness, some candidates may need periods of leave to enable them to seek appropriate treatment and self-care:
- Taking a period of leave may be recommended by the treating health professional involved in the candidate's care, or it may be identified as a reasonable adjustment in discussion with the candidate about their mental health problem and difficulties with the candidature.
- There are no fixed rules about how much leave should be taken for a mental health illness and this will vary depending on a range of factors. When the candidate does opt to take a period of leave the University will require that the reason for this leave be communicated (via medical certificate) and when known, how long the period of absence will be.
- During a period of leave it might be helpful to have some regular contact with candidate, providing that they are well enough and agree to this. This can help the candidate to remain feeling 'connected' to the University and their research and can aid in the return to candidature. Early, regular and sensitive contact may be particularly beneficial in helping the candidate return to their studies. However, of course the level and type of communication will vary depending on the circumstances and should be discussed with the candidate.
- Some candidates may be reluctant to communicate directly with their supervisor about their illness and leave conditions as they might feel embarrassed, anxious or ashamed about their circumstances. It is therefore important that any communications you do have with the candidate are conducted sympathetically and sensitively. You might want to say something like "I have been thinking of you and thought I would contact you to see how you are. I hope you don't mind me contacting you to see how you are?"
- In circumstances where the candidate is too unwell to be contacted directly, they may provide permission for you as the supervisor to liaise with a next of kin. However, in other cases, the candidate may prefer not to be contacted by their supervisor; preferring instead to have communications about their illness and leave conditions with intermediaries at the University (e.g. Graduate Research Office).