With that in mind, how can school and academy leaders help to support the mental wellbeing of their staff?
A study by Headspace found that an incredible 93% of teaching staff reported feeling stressed while carrying out their roles at least once a week, which makes education one of the sectors struggling most with mental health challenges. This is hardly surprising; teachers and support specialists are at the coalface and will reflect the wellbeing of the pupils they are educating, and we know that they too are struggling with the difficult environment in which we are living. Teachers are also exposed to the other challenges being faced not just in this country, but around the world, including the cost-of-living crisis, climate issues and the legacy of the coronavirus pandemic.
For school leaders, this presents a significant challenge. They want and need their staff to perform at their optimum level and to do this they need to find ways to support their mental wellbeing, which certainly isn’t an easy task. But what can school heads and academy and trust leaders actually do?
Supporting teacher mental health
Watch for early warning signs
If you know the signs to look out for that suggest one of your staff members is struggling with their mental health then it becomes a lot easier to manage any subsequent issues. If any of your staff seem isolated, withdrawn or less happy than they normally are, then it could be time to see if they need help. Not every instance of this behaviour will be down to mental health challenges but by keeping an eye out for your workforce it can show them that they are supported at work and can lead to the situation being resolved more quickly.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to provide a shoulder to cry on (although showing that you care for your team always has a positive impact) but just being there and highlighting that you can help will go a long way. This is your opportunity to try and find the source of the issue and then adapt accordingly. Some staff will simply need to talk about the problems or challenges they’re facing, while others will need deeper levels of support. This can take the form of dedicated clinical support through the NHS and healthcare providers, or at a less formal level by utilising platforms like Headspace and Calm that are readily available. The key is to ensure the right support is there at the right time. Whoever provides that support, and however they provide it, early identification and intervention are particularly important.
Find what works
Everyone is different and while some educators will need to talk through their problems, others may need time off, they might need to speak to a therapist or other support professional, or they might need time to just decompress and deal with their issues themselves. The last thing education leaders should be doing is putting pressure on their staff to perform and ignore their issues as this can create larger problems further down the line. According to the data, when it comes to the mental health support of education workers, 44% of staff say would like a system that offers quick access while 46% say they’d like that to include multiple support streams (such as in-person, virtual, or app-based talk therapy). An additional 45% would feel most comfortable speaking to behavioural health coaches, therapists or psychiatrists who they can share their life experiences with.
Workplace mental health is now a key business priority for employers in every sector across the UK. Ultimately, keeping staff healthy and offering support to those who are suffering more acutely makes business, as well as human, sense. It results in lower absenteeism and an overall happier and more productive workforce. The best thing leaders can do is highlight that there are options and ways they can help. If you need to provide your teaching staff with some much-needed respite, or if you are looking to plug gaps in your workforce with specialist educators who can fit with your school, academy or trust on both a professional and cultural basis, then speak to our expert team.
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