Why We Must Put the Right Measures in Place to Safeguard Teachers’ Mental Health

Following warnings that teachers’ mental health is on the brink of collapse, teachers’ union NASUWT’s passed a motion calling for school leaders to be given suicide prevention training, along with mandatory mental health training for all staff in school and colleges.

Headteacher Ruth Perry’s suicide in January 2023 was a stark wake-up call for those with limited awareness of the issues permeating the teaching world, prompting many into action.

But the 53-year-old’s case was not an isolated one. The rise in suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts amongst teachers is now a concerning reality.

What are the issues causing teachers to struggle?

Educators across the country are facing unmanageable amounts of stress, stemming from high workloads, long hours (on average 52 per week) and the pressure to meet government targets, leading to an increase in serious mental health problems.

The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2023 reveals that 81% of school staff experienced at least one behavioural, psychological or physical symptom of poor mental health as a direct result of their work.

The world of teaching is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. This is primarily driven by a serious increase in workloads, and a concerning lack of support.

Poor mental health and burnout are causing many to leave their jobs altogether, and with teacher recruitment currently being a critical issue, remaining teachers are often required to pick up extra work – essentially a vicious cycle.

There are also incredibly high standards to uphold in the education system, which leads to significant pressure being put on teachers and school leaders, coupled with school budgets not rising in line with inflation.

The recent NASUWT motion highlights the lack of support for staff in schools and colleges, and a need for change in the industry.

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The need for better resources

No one should have their mental health destroyed due to their job. A bespoke approach to mental health training is needed to combat this crisis effectively and help teachers manage their mental health within what is a particularly demanding environment.

And though we have made great progress in recent years, there is still substantial stigma attached to the notion of seeking help for one’s mental health, or even admitting there is a problem, particularly in a professional environment.

But we are now seeing just how harrowing the consequences of dismissing mental health issues can be. We must have the right resources in place to combat this crisis effectively – there’s simply no room for hesitation, or mistakes.

Though there is a growing workplace mental health crisis across the whole nation, we must recognise that there are unique challenges in every industry, which cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Mental health and suicide prevention training in the workplace can be incredibly beneficial resources, however, investing in bespoke training is of paramount importance.

These resources must be tailored to the needs and issues faced by staff in schools, and in some cases, to the unique challenges within a certain organisation.

Mental health training can help instil a culture of openness and solidarity, increase awareness, reduce stigma, and show individuals that they are not alone.

It can encourage open communication and build a support network for those who are struggling. In turn, this can encourage those who need it to seek professional help before it’s too late.

Yet it is vital for bespoke resources to be implemented in order for them to be effective. We can’t expect a mental health training course designed for office workers, or farmers, or pilots, for instance, to be able to have any sort of positive impact on a teacher, and vice versa.

A tailored approach to mental health training is key to making the much-needed positive impact teachers need right now.

For more information on bespoke mental health training resources, please get in touch.

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