Supporting Teacher Wellbeing

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According to recent research, around 5% of teachers today are suffering long-lasting mental health problems – up from just 1% in the 1990s. This is mainly due to the fact that the role of teachers is developing to include more duties and responsibilities than ever before.

Despite the heavier job scope, society neglects to address teacher wellbeing and their emotional needs. The result is teacher burn-out and a lack of skilled teachers available.

It is reported that the teachers wellbeing is influenced by the wellbeing of students and their psychological distress. As a matter of fact, a student with a good health and welfare appears to improve teacher wellbeing and can reduce their depressive symptoms. These research findings clearly explain that teachers and students are highly associated even on their mental health state.   

The responsibilities of teachers have evolved tremendously and are much more complex. Apart from the academic curriculum, teachers also have to identify which of their students are dealing with mental health disorders and provide consultation. This can be very challenging when they do not receive any mental health training.

How to support teacher wellbeing

A case study suggested that teachers need more knowledge on mental health and a larger support system to increase their classroom effectiveness. But the most crucial thing is that we acknowledge and embrace the issue instead of keeping it in silence.

Teachers are humans too, they have their weaknesses, however, to say and believe that mental health issues are a part of that fragility, is definitely misleading. In order to improve teacher wellbeing, they can create small circles or groups and discuss their daily interactions with their students.

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Of course, there is always the option of seeking the help of experienced professionals in the mental health field, such as BetterHelp, who can help you either individually or as a couple. You can even attend virtual couples therapy retreats with online couples counseling.

teacher wellbeing

The key is to be as transparent as possible, and it’s important to emphasize on the frustration instead of the success, if we are to combat this particular issue. The reason on not focusing on the performance is to avoid putting more pressure on teachers. Acknowledging the vulnerabilities might be the most effective way to tackle mental health issues, not only among teachers but also for everyone dealing with the same problem. 

Why is there a silence about teacher wellbeing and mental health?

There are two main factors that cause the silence on the teachers wellbeing and mental health: the teachers themselves and their administrators. As we’ve mentioned earlier, teachers sometimes tend to ignore the problem, put a very high expectation on themselves and neglect their mental health needs. They probably do this because they think it is wrong to admit or reveal their pain just because of their profession, or simply because they feel that their vulnerabilities would jeopardize their reputation as educators.

What is more, there is lack of mental health services or plans. It seems that mental health discussions are some kind of a taboo between school administrators and staff, when at the same time teachers are expected to deliver mental health interference among their students. Therefore, school leaders are advised to create a school culture and infrastructure to support the teachers wellbeing and mental health.

Making teaching more sustainable

If we would like to strive towards teaching sustainability seriously, the first step is to keep in mind the role of the teacher and the purpose of education first and foremost. Teachers convey knowledge about their subject matter and help their students learn in the best way they can. Once they start to juggle different kinds of duties, which sometimes do not match with their initial competencies, then issues start to arise.

And while it is never wrong for teachers to assist, the responsibility must be shared equally among other stakeholders, especially parents. Teachers must set their limits and, in these challenging times, they must set aside some time for themselves in order to survive without necessarily restricting themselves from helping other people. And this applies to everyone, regardless of profession.    

How can we support the emotional well-being of teachers? | Sydney Jensen

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Researcher educator specializing in mental health, educational innovations, computer-supported collaborative learning, and technology integration.

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