Research has revealed that over a third of education professionals are expected to leave their job by 2020, highlighting the importance of teacher mental health and the need to address this crisis
According to a recent study, more than half of Britain’s teachers have a diagnosed mental health problem, with 76% of education professionals experiencing behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work in the last year.
Teacher mental health issues are important because they not only have a detrimental influence on teachers themselves but also directly affect classroom outcomes. One study into this showed that 77% of teachers felt poor mental health was having a damaging effect on pupil mental health, and 85% said that it adversely affected the quality of lesson planning.
In order to tackle the crisis head-on, school leaders need to build open and supportive wellbeing cultures. With a recent study showing that almost one-third of UK employees claim that they do not feel comfortable talking to their manager about mental health problems for fear of being judged, this is clearly a pressing issue. By adopting ‘open-door’ policies, and encouraging staff to share their issues, school leaders can ensure that problems can be appropriately addressed. A mentoring or buddy system could also be implemented– with this being especially useful for new members of staff, a high-risk group for mental health problems. Others initiative such as wellbeing surveys, training staff as mental health first aiders, and a provision of personal mental health guidance during teacher training are also all ways to achieve this.
Offering extra training and development to staff is often recommended as a method to boost retention, with studies showing higher levels of effective training have been proven to reduce the desire to move schools. One paper indicated that improving professional development by just one standard deviation shows a 63% reduction in the chance that a teacher will move to another school. With the evidence showing that training and development opportunities make teachers more likely to stay at a school, therefore suggesting that they feel content and settled, school leaders should actively encourage staff to regularly participate in CPD.
Workload is the most cited cause of mental health problems and the main reason for teachers leaving. Therefore, schools that offer arrangements such as job-sharing will find it far easier to retain staff and alleviate some of the problems around this. While the DfE has been working to develop strategies to help schools manage workload, there are still some methods leaders can implement right now. For instance, setting limits on after-school meetings and ensuring that only relevant staff are present, making sure employees take break and lunch times, and not setting expectations for immediate email responses, or even restricting the hours when emails can be sent, will all go some way towards helping.
Mindfulness and CBT
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, is a therapy that teaches individuals to observe the way their behaviour and thoughts affect their mood, and then build new patterns to avoid letting these thoughts have negative effects. Second, only to medication, CBT has been identified as an extremely effective treatment for mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression. Exercises such as meditation are also proven to improve mental health. By training people to bring more awareness to thoughts and feelings, they can be better managed and not become overwhelming.
One study found that mindfulness techniques significantly reduced the stress of participants when practised over three months. Another study revealed that meditation can reduce brain tissue associated with anxiety and worrying. By offering these options, along with other activities such as yoga, and physical exercise classes’, schools would be able to provide easy to implement, powerful methods of improving mental health.
Small things can make a change
There are many different approaches that school leaders can take in order to alleviate the mental health crisis, and there really is no ‘Holy Grail.’ People will all react differently to certain methods, making the best approach to build open and supportive cultures which allow help to start with the individual and work out what suits them best. However, this does not mean that schools shouldn’t try as many things as possible, and there are certain methods which are both very beneficial for mental health, and easy to put into action. By making small positive adjustments, over the long term, meaningful change can occur for teachers, students, and school leaders.
Original link: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/teacher-mental-health-matters/60935/
Guest blogger for YoungMinds Becky talks about how exam pressure affected her mental health, and the steps she took to make school life easier.
School: seen as a place for learning, maturing, making friends and growing. But for someone with depression and anxiety, school can be far from these things. For a lot of us (often more than you initially realise), school can be the most mentally challenging time of our lives. Years 10, 11 and year one of college felt almost impossible for me.
Through my school years, I had been put in top sets and given extra work. I was considered a ‘high achiever’ which sounds great… right? But this meant that there was so much pressure for me to do well in all my exams and keep improving, it really was bitter sweet. When I was approaching GCSE’s, the expectation that I would go to university began. Uni is not for everyone and much to my teacher’s dismay, it has never been for me! I was interested in going into work after college as I learn better in a hands-on environment – and that’s okay; everyone learns in their own unique way. Constant pushing from school to be a ‘star’ student was only making me unhappy, as the goals they were setting me felt completely unreasonable and unachievable to me.
Unfortunately, at the end of year 9 and as I went into year 10, my low mood began to escalate which led me to start seeing the school therapist. My school were eager to help which was positive. However, a big problem I found with school counselling was that I had to leave lessons to attend. This not only set me behind with work – causing me more stress in order to catch up – but it also would provoke questions. My peers would notice when I left mid-lesson and ask ‘Where are you going?’ This was difficult as I felt I couldn’t talk to many people about the way I was feeling; I felt like I was constantly having to hide this part of me from them.
As the year group were now knuckling down with preparing for GCSEs, it was becoming more and more difficult to stay focused, motivated and on-track. My mind was always elsewhere and exams were creeping up on me. Mock exam after mock exam and one revision guide to the next – it was full on! I felt like teachers didn’t understand how much the pressure of school can affect not only our mental health but also the quality of work we produce. Often, my fatigue and sadness would completely inhibit my ability to concentrate, only making me more anxious. It felt like a vicious circle!
My mum and I went into the school to discuss how best to help me.
I had a separate room to do my exams in. This meant the anxieties about walking into the exam hall with 200 students were reduced significantly, putting my mind at ease.
After finding the school counselling was not effective, I managed to see a CAMHS therapist outside of school and she helped me with strategies to stay calm. “Deep breaths Becky,” I would think to myself as I got nervous.
I learnt to tackle revision in manageable chunks and treat myself to rewards when I completed a section. Revision is tiring as it is, without battling mental health, so celebrate even the smallest of victories because you deserve the credit!
To anyone else who is struggling with schoolwork: remember exams are important, but your mental health comes first.
Comic Relief started as a charity in 1985 with a goal to raise as much money as possible for lives in Africa and the UK after the success of Live Aid that same year. Comic Relief came up with the idea of raising money through comedy which goes with their current message of “Do Something Funny For Money”.
Comic Relief officially started on Christmas Day 1985 and has been running successfully for 34 years.
Everyone at Harmless would like to say a BIG thank you to Comic Relief. By giving money on Red Nose Day you are showing your support to projects across the world- projects like ours. Harmless are supported by Comic Relief to help young people who self harm; they help us to save lives.
Harmless have had a long and successful relationship with Comic Relief; starting in 2012, we continue to work closely with the wonderful organisation today. In 2018, they gave us £150k to provide self harm and suicide crisis support services to those aged 19 to 34.
We also had the pleasure of hosting Comic Relief CEO, Liz Warner, in March 2019. As part of the visit, two young people spoke about how Harmless and The Tomorrow Project had supported them and the positive impact our work, funded by Comic Relief, had on their lives.
Thank you and please continue to support #RND text ‘YES’ to 70205 to donate £5.
To donate online: https://donation.comicrelief.com/
To celebrate 34 years of Comic relief we’ve put together a history of red noses for you to reflect back on. Which ones have you owned?