How Can We Look After Teachers’ Mental Health?
October 5th was the World Teachers’ day and by some strange coincidence, it is very close to World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October.
Teachers are an important part of the success of a society. We all need them.
Teachers’ Stress/ Depression/ Anxiety
At least a quarter of the teaching profession reports stress worldwide. One UK survey of teachers in 2015 showed that more than 80% of teachers experience stress or anxiety or depression. Stress by itself is not the disease or disorder, but stress affects job performance or turnover must be addressed.
Teachers in Canada have a high job turnover in the first 5 years of entering the profession1 and last year the Ottawa Catholic School Board reported a 38% increase in sickness absence over 4 years 2.
So what can be done?
Do We Focus on the Workplace or the Person?
Many studies on workplace mental health suggest that introducing positive changes in the organisation can improve wellbeing. We support this approach, but it often takes time to design and implement.
A faster and complementary approach would be to focus directly on the teacher’s health.
So What Really Works for Teachers’ Mental Wellbeing?
Multicomponent organisational implementation targeting performance bonuses, promotion and mentoring improved retention of teachers3.
At the individual level, a teacher can be directly helped by behavioral, mindfulness-based and cognitive-behavioural therapies4. The caveat is that these interventions must be delivered in a systematic and competent manner.
So What Can We Do Now?
The most critical step now would be to provide effective psychological therapies without delay and with expertise to teachers who are reporting a high level of stress and mental health problems. They should also be provided to teachers, who have recently gone off work.
This would improve the teachers’ mental health, reduce turnover and sickness absence in schools.
Our team of skilled therapists is here to help.
- Danilewitz JR. “Quality of Life and Sources of Stress in Teachers: A Canadian Perspective” (2017). In: Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository 4469: 2017.
- Miller J. Sick leave skyrockets among teachers, classroom educators in Ottawa public school board. In: Ottawa Citizen: March 26, 2018.
- Naghieh A, Montgomery P, Bonell CP, Thompson M, Aber JL. Organisational interventions for improving wellbeing and reducing work-related stress in teachers. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 2015; (4): Cd010306.
- von der Embse N, Ryan SV, Gibbs T, Mankin A. Teacher stress interventions: A systematic review. Psychology in the Schools. 2019; 56(8): 1328-43.
About the Author:
Dr Sanjay Rao is an experienced teacher and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. In 2018 he was awarded a Fellowship of the Canadian Association of Cognitive Behavioural therapy for his contribution to CBT in Canada. He has received an award from the Department of Health, UK for CBT development. He is the Director of Unified CBT training.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]