03 Mar Maintaining the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Teachers
As part of your school’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT), ensuring the
level of wellbeing and mental health awareness is high among your teaching staff, may fall on your shoulders.
This is undoubtedly a great responsibility, as optimal mental health in teachers is fundamental to the running of a successful school and healthy learning environment.
The Education Support Partnership, a charity dedicated to supporting the mental health of those who work in education, recently released a statement which highlighted a 28% rise over the past two years of cases of poor mental health among teachers. More than half (57%) of all cases involved teachers who have only been working in the profession for less than five years.
Teaching, at any level, is a demanding job.
Often it’s high-paced nature leaves little time to sit down with your staff and reflect on how they are coping with the stress that comes with school life. This is something every school must make time for and must take just as seriously as they do the mental health of students. After all, an unhappy and unengaged teacher, just leads to demotivated and disengaged lessons and students.
So, how do you start the conversation?
There is still a stigma surrounding mental health. Of course, it is a sensitive issue which means it’s a topic which is often tip-toed around, to avoid the stereotypical ‘British awkwardness’ that comes with opening up and having a conversation.
At Forward Teaching, we understand teachers better than anyone and we recognise the importance of maintaining wellbeing to their roles.
To try and help tackle this issue among teachers, we have compiled a list of tips and advice for any member of an SLT, to help start the conversation and improve the overall mental health standard in your school or organisation.
- Regularly check-in with staff
If a member of staff is struggling with their mental health, you shouldn’t rely on them to approach you first. Often, the stigma surrounding mental health, as well as the pressure on teaching staff to remain level-headed, puts many off from sharing their issues for fear of appearing incapable of fulfilling their role.
Getting teachers out of this mindset is important. We recommend that you set up meetings with staff to ask them about their workload, how they are handling it and how they are feeling on a day to day basis. If there are any causes for concern or issues that arise, make sure you are speaking to this member of staff on a regular basis, offering support, guidance and discussing potential ways to make their work-life slightly easier for them.
- Help staff identify their own mental health risks
One of the most important aspects of helping your staff with mental health issues, is making sure they recognise the problem when it arises. Poor mental health can sometimes be excused as a ‘bad day’ or a ‘busy week’. Often, this is the case. But knowing when the problem is bigger than that is critical. Teachers have been trained to look out for warning signs of poor mental health in their students, but do they know what to look for in themselves? Awareness courses and workshops can be a good way to ensure your staff are aware of their own personal mental health and could be a great way to offer guidance or advice for those who are already struggling.
- Encourage a healthy work/life balance
Teacher’s have a notoriously poor work/life balance.
According to a government survey carried out in 2016, primary school teachers are working in excess of 55 hours a week and secondary school staff work, on average, around 53. This represents 18 hours beyond the national average for people in full-time roles.
Read more on finding your work/life balance in our blog here.
Not having a sufficient work/life balance leads to the burnout of hundreds of teachers which consequently results in the poor mental health of a great many cases.
It is important to encourage your staff to have an
appropriate work/life balance to ensure that when they
do come into work, they are rested, motivated and most of all – still passionate about teaching.
Ensuring the level of wellbeing and mental health awareness is high among your teaching staff can be a difficult task, however these three small steps can go a long way in making teachers feel safe, valued and cared for in the workplace.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today.