Make Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing a School Staff Priority

Posted on 16th April 2018

Mental health has been described by Theresa May, Prime Minister, as “one of the greatest challenges of our time”. Mental health issues are an aspect of modern life and those in education are not immune – indeed, over the last 12 months the number of teachers seeking mental health support increased by 35%.

Many factors can influence an individual’s mental and emotional wellbeing – including work, family, money or health. Clearly working in a pressurised environment such as education might have an impact. Whether in the classroom, as a member of support staff, or in leadership; anyone might find themselves affected.

It is therefore incumbent upon senior school management to take the lead in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing. There are many ways to prevent mental illness in staff and develop a supportive working environment:

·      While having high expectations of teachers is important, without a strong emphasis on self-care this can lead individuals to overreach themselves. Ensure staff know you put their health first and that constantly feeling stressed is not acceptable

·      Learn how to recognise potential problems such as a team member showing signs of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Foster a culture of openness where colleagues can talk to each other about problems, and turn to management for advice

·      Become aware of how to take early steps to improve the mental health of your personnel.  From small acts of kindness to practical training or larger changes to workload or responsibilities – nothing should be out of the question

·      Every time a policy is reviewed, consider whether this could have an impact on staff mental health and put systems in place

·      Develop interventions to build resilience and build appropriate coping mechanisms. Create safe spaces, ensure counselling is available and breed a culture of coaching

·      Overall, aim to nurture an inclusive and enabling environment where every person’s mental health can be supported and strengthened

·      Look after your own mental health first, so that you can look after others! Lead by example!

Finally, it has been shown that there is a link between poor staff mental health and poor pupil health. It would therefore seem that by making positive mental health and emotional wellbeing an integral part of the culture for teachers, it would be “child’s play” to spread the benefits throughout the school and share them with our children and young people.

The West Midlands School Leaders Conference will take place on Friday 18th May at the Chateau Impney. System leaders and teaching school representatives from across the region will gather at our vital leadership learning event. As in previous years, this will be an excellent chance to brainstorm the burning issues in schools today and also to meet and network with other inspirational leaders. This year, there will also be opportunities to be educated, inspired and motivated in our immersive workshops.

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