As education continues to be a challenging time for everyone; here at Juniper Education we know all too well the pressures, stresses and strain teachers and senior leaders are facing daily. As this week marks Mental Health Awareness week, an annual ‘event’ organised by charity Mind which runs from 15– 21 May 2023, we wanted to highlight the importance of promoting good mental health in schools for teachers and staff.
Kate Merryweather, one of our Education HR experts has been working in HR for over 8 years and knows first hand how incredibly demanding and stressful the role of a teacher can be. Working very closely with schools on a daily basis, she sees just what pressures schools are under. In this blog, Kate has written about what mental health is, what it means for teachers, and gives her top tips for supporting teachers with their mental health.
What is mental health?
Mental health affects everyone, it does not care about your age, sex, religion, or race.
Mental health includes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being and it effects how we think, feel and act. It can also be a part of how we handle stress, relate to others around us and affects the choices we make.
Mental health is more common than you think, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, with 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England and 1 in 5 people have suicidal thoughts.
Supporting teachers’ mental health
Taking care of your mental health is essential for overall well-being and quality of life. As a teacher, it’s important to prioritise your mental health and seek support when needed. Here are some top tips of things you can do as a teacher and school to promote positive mental well-being amongst staff:
Practice self-care: Self-care is essential for maintaining good mental health. Teachers should prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, and exercising regularly. It is also important to take breaks throughout the day to relax and recharge.
Set boundaries: Teachers often feel pressure to work long hours and take on extra responsibilities. However, it is important to set boundaries and prioritize time for self-care and personal life. Saying no to extra responsibilities can be difficult, but it is necessary for maintaining good mental health.
Seek support: Teachers should not hesitate to seek support when needed. This may include speaking with colleagues, school counsellors, or mental health professionals. It is important to have a support system in place to provide emotional and practical support.
Build positive relationships: Building positive relationships with students and colleagues can be a powerful protective factor for mental health. Positive relationships can provide a sense of community, support, and purpose.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being. Teachers can incorporate mindfulness practices into their daily routine, such as taking a few minutes to breathe deeply before class or during a break.
Break down the stigma: Even with all the publicity around mental health, people are still often afraid to discuss how they are feeling for fear of discrimination at work or being treated differently to those closest to us. By talking openly about your mental health will break down these barriers.
Promote physical health: Physical activity and healthy eating have a positive impact on mental health. Encourage employees to take breaks and engage in physical activities, such as walks or stretching, to help reduce stress levels. Provide healthy eating options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables in the staff room and promote a healthy lifestyle through wellness initiatives.
Is your mental health being affected?
Understanding both your own mental health and other’s mental health is very important to ensure the right support is received. Try asking yourself these questions:
- Do you feel that you are feeling excessively sad or low?
- Do you have constant worrying or fear?
- Do you feel confused or have problems concentrating?
- Are you having extreme mood changes?
The mental health of others
Perhaps you may be worried about a colleague who hasn’t been themselves lately. Ask yourself the following questions to determine how you think they are feeling:
- Does someone you work with seem to have low levels of engagement?
- Do they have a decrease in productivity?
- Are they showing uncharacteristic behaviour?
- Do they have increased absence and are they withdrawing from social situations?
All of these are signs of a possible mental health problem. By firstly recognising these signs means people can ensure they seek the right help. It is also ok to ask someone ‘are you ok?’. Asking directly gives them permission to tell you how they are feeling and letting them know they can talk to you. Remember to listen and take them seriously and agree times to talk again.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, know that you’re not alone and help is available. There are several ways to get support for mental health. Reach out to a mental health charity like Mind, join a support group, confide in a trusted friend, family member or colleague, use helplines such as Samaritans or reach out to your GP.
Remember, seeking support for your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness, and can ultimately lead to better well-being both in and out of the classroom. Taking that stage towards seeking support can be the first step towards recovery and healing, allowing you to focus on what’s important, improving the lives of children through education.
Our Education HR experts can help
When your success relies on the strength of your people, you need to know you have all the answers to even the most challenging human resource questions, including issues relating to mental health.
Our education HR experts have seen it all. We’ve all the policies, advice, guidance, templates, systems, and staff development technology you need. We’re here to help.
Get in touch with our dedicated team of Education HR professionals today – and let us give you and your teaching staff the support they need.