With anxiety running high, supporting mental health in schools will be essential this autumn. The resilience of schools, their staff and their students are inextricably intwined. Here we discuss how to boost staff and students’ mental health as they move back into the classroom.
The impact of Covid
Before Covid hit, teachers were already considered at high risk of chronic stress. National figures show that 3750 cases were reported during the 2016-2017 academic year in England alone. But this figure is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. With the accumulation of new pressures and demands associated with Covid, teachers are now at even greater risk.
The impact of recent events on student mental health has been huge. As schools re-open pupil wellbeing has been pushed to the top of the government’s agenda.
Research shows that an important factor in student resilience and wellbeing is the support provided by teachers. As pupils navigate the challenges and uncertainties of returning to school, they will need this support more than ever.
However, with teachers facing their own challenges many may not feel they have the social or emotional resources to deliver this much needed help.
Therefore, a priority for schools will be ensuring staff have the training and skills they need to manage personal challenges. This will equip them with the social and emotional resources to help and support students through this difficult time.
Teacher resilience has been recognised as an essential component of outstanding teaching quality and learning in schools.
Researchers have found that teacher and student mental health is linked. Teachers who are given the space and training to focus on their own wellbeing fare better through challenge and change. They are better able to form high quality relationships with students, are more responsive to students’ needs and create better learning experiences.
Supporting mental health in schools
At the organisational level, teacher mental health is linked to factors such as workload, student behaviour, workplace relationships and support. Clear guidance in these areas will be an important feature of any school’s return to work wellbeing plan.
Provide teachers with the social and emotional skills to adapt to the post-Covid challenges of return to school through:
- Self-awareness training
- Encouraging emotion regulation through opportunities for time out, using controlled breathing, and practising mindfulness
- Enhancing flexible thinking skills and use of an optimistic mindset. This allows accurate appraisal of challenges and promotes more balanced ways of responding
- Creating opportunities for social connection and support, such as social events and team building. Provision of staff support in the form of mentors or resilience coaching
- Encouraging self-care and good work-life balance
Provide teachers with training and skills to support student mental health:
- Training to recognise signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties in students. Building confidence to know when and how to offer support to a struggling student
- Building strong relationships with students through the use of active listening skills and strategies. Managing difficult conversations mindfully and with compassion
- Developing clear policies on behaviour management to ensure consistent boundaries. This creates a predictable environment that allows for emotional containment
- Using compassion focused approaches to understand the meaning of student behaviour. Encouraging student self-awareness and capacity to self-soothe
Prioritising resilience training and coaching support nurtures teacher mental health and wellbeing. Teachers with good mental health are better able to form supportive relationships with the young people they serve. And together these play a key role in supporting mental health in schools, staff and students, creating a resilient organisation.
For further information about the mental health of staff in your organisation please do contact us for further information.