Complaining: The Impact on Health

Introduction

Pursuing a complaint against a large public body such as a university can ultimately have a devastating effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing. In some cases it can cause significant long-term harmful effects to your mental health. These effects will be even greater if you already suffer from a condition or illness which can be exacerbated by stress. While you are pursuing your complaint, whether it is with the university, the OIA, the courts, or some other public body, we want to ensure that as much as possible can be done to help you to stay sane, and (while we appreciate that you will not be totally stress-free), reduce the stress to acceptable levels.

Stress: Eustress or Distress?

It is generally accepted that continuous, unresolved stress, even of the type that could be construed as "good stress" will eventually cause a person to become distressed. It is this continuous stress factor that is significant in the deteriorating emotional health of those who have complained to a public body such as a university.

Pre-Conditions: Mental Health

A significant number of students in any university population will suffer from on or more "Mental Health Issues" while at university. Some will have come with them, and some will have succumbed to them during the course of their studies. The most common of these is depression, which affects one in four people. If you are suffering one of these pre-conditions at the time when you complain to your university, you should be aware that there is a significant chance that this condition will be used against you, even if it is not in any way connected to the reason for your complaint.

Famous People With Mental Health Issues

This section is a motley collection of material which aims to show that, far from being alone with these problems, we are very familiar with some of them ourselves, and even the most successful people can often be caught up in a maelstrom of mental illnesses whose effects have taken herculean efforts to escape from. These are their ultimately positive stories:

Stephen Fry - The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive - Part 1 of 2
Stephen Fry - The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive - Part 2 of 2
Ruby Wax - What's So Funny About Mental Illness?
Mental Health Stigma
The Gestalt Project: Stop the Stigma

After The Fact

So, Your university has attacked you. Now what? You will certainly be upset, disorientated and angry. You might also be isolated, discredited, psychologically injured, financially disadvantaged, and a host of other things besides! Listen carefully!!! ...

What Do I Need To Do?

First, decide what stage you are at:

1.  It's only just happened, I don't know what to do, or where to turn!
Stay calm...
You are not alone! We have extensive experience of what you are going through. Firstly, remember that this is probably not your fault. Secondly, remember that whatever happens from this point forward, your physical and mental health are the two most important things to maintain. Take some time to carefully evaluate the situation. Use the information in our flowchart to help you to explore your options.
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2.  I've complained to my university, but I'm still not satisfied!
Your university has procedures which it MUST follow, in order to handle your case fairly. The first stage is usually to make an informal oral complaint, if the problem is not too serious. Your university may not even recognise this as part of their complaints process, so it is important to ask for the complaints procedure documentation right from the start. If your complaint is more serious, then the first stage will almost certainly involve a written complaint. In that case, your university must recognise your complaint as a formal complaint. Universities usually consider complaints at two formal stages, stage 1 and stage 2. The "Complaints Procedures" for your own university will explain how the university will deal with your complaint at each stage. On completion of a stage, your university should decide if they accept the merits of your complaint, and if so, should offer you a remedy for your complaint. They should also explain what further action is available to you, should you be unhappy with their findings. It is at this point that you need to decide whether to accept their findings and the remedy, or to move to the next stage. Each stage will have an increasing level of formality. Once all the stages available to you at the university are exhausted, the university MUST issue you a document called "Completion of Procedures". This will be written letter or form, and will indicate clearly that it is the "Completion of Procedures" document.
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3.  I've completed complaining to my university, and have a completion of procedures letter.
If you have your "Completion of Procedures" letter, you have probably been advised that if you are still not satisfied, then you must take your case to the OIA. You may have been given a leaflet which serves as a sort of idiot's guide to the OIA, and by this time, you may be tempted to believe that you still have a good chance at resolution of your complaint. Unfortunately, the OIA's statistics tell a totally diffent story!
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4.  I've sent my complaint to the OIA, What happens next?
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5.  The OIA have issued a Draft Decision. I'm still not satisfied.
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6.  The OIA have issued their Formal Decision. I'm still not satisfied
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7.  I've spoken to a lawyer/solicitor/legal advisor, instead of going to the OIA.
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8.  I've spoken to a lawyer/solicitor/legal advisor, and I've also complained to the OIA
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External Links:

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