Back to school: but how is the mental well-being of our teachers?

Back to school: but how is the mental well-being of our teachers?

The UK schools system is cracking under the strain of poor mental health. Fewer teachers than ever are being recruited into our schools. Due to increased workloads, stress for teachers at every level is the main reason for the crisis. So how does a teacher tackle it?

Worrying mental health reports

As demands on teachers increase so has the number of staff seeking support for mental health. When the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) recently interviewed 5,000 teachers about the subject, they learned anxiety and depression are rife: 79% feel anxious about their workload and one in ten have been prescribed anti-depressants. Whilst some teachers seek support for mental health via their GP, some take short-lived solace in increased levels of things like caffeine or alcohol.

Pupils Suffer too

It is no surprise to learn that teachers are leaving the profession in droves and recruitment is grinding to a halt. Yet it is the very people teachers want to help: the children, who ultimately suffer. Their school-time mentors are tense, less patient and more irritable. In a quandary, teachers have to learn self-care techniques to see through the crisis.

Make a change

Outside government intervention and a change to working practices, how can teachers celebrate the importance of their contribution to the system?

Here are five ways to boost your mental health and general well-being:

Mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. 86% of teachers in the NASUWT report say they suffer from sleeplessness, which suggests difficulty switching off. Train your mind to focus only on the present moment and this will discourage thoughts from ballooning out of control to become a greater worry.

Love and friendship is a great defender against depression. If you are disconnected from those who care most about you because you are distracted by stress, it hurts everyone. Immerse yourself in supporting, loving relationships to keep your head above water.

Exercise may sound like the last thing you want to do when you feel exhausted. However, just twenty minutes of exercise each day can combat fatigue. If you don’t already, give it a go!

Psychotherapy has proven to be important to see teachers through dark times. Free online therapy is available outside working hours to release pent up frustration. Online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help re-train your brain to combat personal triggers for stress, anxiety and depression.

Learning is important for teachers as well as their pupils. Every time you try something new or deepen your knowledge about a particular subject, you can feel better about yourself. The more times you can experience a sense of achievement or joy through learning, the more infectious these feelings become. When you feel undervalued the very thing to do in return is prove your capability and self-worth, then pass it down to your pupils.

It is undeniably easy for a teacher to put their own needs to one side; giving to others is the very nature of the work. However, help yourself first and the rest can follow more easily.

Published 30 Aug 2016
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