Protecting the mental health of our vital teaching workforce

Are teachers more at risk of mental health issues? The impact of coronavirus has been felt by us all in some way or another. But for schools, the disruptive lockdown, worries around safety, social care concerns, and the confusion around the exam results system in August, will no doubt have caused a rise in anxiety and other mental health issues amongst teaching staff. Every industry has its own unique set of


eaching is a rewarding but sometimes mentally challenging job. And with the

coronavirus pandemic having caused major disruption to teachers and pupils across the country, protecting the mental health of our teaching staff has never been so important. In our first feature this month looking at mental health and wellbeing, we speak to Jill Mead, CEO at TalkOut Group, who discusses how we can help manage and spot the signs of poor mental health amongst teachers, and promote a healthier, happier, resilient workforce.

challenges when it comes to managing mental health and the education sector is no different. According to the most recent Teacher Wellbeing Index from Education Support, teachers were already feeling the pressure of the job, with two thirds describing themselves as stressed. A 2020 report by the Nuffield Foundation also found that one in 20 teachers have mental health problems lasting more than a year, with panic attacks and anxiety contributing to teachers leaving the profession. On top of this, our latest Teacher Wellbeing research indicated that only 8% of teachers felt that they were truly thriving at work. With a further rise in stress and anxiety

expected when schools re-open in September, it’s vital that teacher mental health and wellbeing is seen as an urgent priority. So, what can headteachers and heads of departments do to


promote positive mental health and wellbeing as the teaching workforce adapts to this new way of working?

Training leads to understanding First things first, more training needs to be given to senior leadership teams to better equip them with the resources and confidence they need to respond in a positive and helpful way when a teacher takes the step to open up about their mental health problems. As with all sectors, many people are rightly

promoted to a managerial role because they’ve excelled at their job and met the criteria to climb the ladder. And whilst people may be extremely competent at their physical job in hand, in some cases, people aren’t given the formal training they need to manage others. In that instance, if senior team members don’t have any experience or awareness of mental health issues, it’s unfair to expect them to know how to deal with these complex issues when they arise in the workplace. Team members might be nervous about doing

or saying the wrong thing when someone talks about mental health so more needs to be done to give them the confidence to manage that conversation. As a senior team member, the pressure of trying to deal with issues you haven’t

September 2020

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