Breaking the stigma around mental health in teaching
As part of the Our Frontline campaign to support the mental health of all those out working to protect us during the coronavirus crisis, we’ll be regularly sharing stories, tips and other thoughts about what life is like for them at the moment, in their own words.
Bethan, a teacher, shares her experience of working in an underappreciated profession that still struggles with discussing mental health.
I have been afor 17 years and have mainly taught Key Stage 2. Around 9 years ago, my husband became very ill and nearly died, but I carried on going to work as I found it helpful to have a focus other than the problems we were facing at home. However, after about 6 months, I did actually get diagnosed with . My mental health issues weren’t directly caused by my job but there were elements of the profession that certainly didn’t help.
Firstly, teaching is so exhausting. There are common misconceptions that teachers finish as soon as the school bell rings or do shorter hours than most, but the hours are long and I think this has a detrimental impact on teachers’ mental health and wellbeing. I’ve also found that the recent situation and school closures have really affected me. I’ve found it really difficult to see the number of negative comments about teachers on social media. Of course, we’ve had negativity in the past, comments about ‘short hours’ and ‘long summer holidays’, but this has been different. We have been questioned continuously about what we have been doing during lockdown and it’s so difficult to be accused of not working or not playing our part when we have been working inside and outside the classroom and helping however we can.
I know how hard teachers are working and seeing so much negativity is really discouraging.
It saddens me to see the low regard some people can hold us in and I know for a fact that I am not the only teacher to be affected by this. I have been in my school teaching the children of key workers whilst teaching my own class online. I know how hard teachers are working and seeing so much negativity is really discouraging. The responsibilities teachers have are massive and go beyond just the time spent in the classroom. I think that this is really affecting teachers’ morale and we’re going to see a lot of teaching staff struggle or even consider leaving.
Although we hear a lot nowadays that ‘mental health is just as important as physical health’, there is still a massive stigma attached to it and I think teachers definitely feel it.can still be really difficult in the school environment as I think it is viewed as a weakness. I think there is a mentality to keep going and that there is merit in that, which can mean people don’t ask for help when they first need it and the issues are left to become worse.
I’m quite open about my mental health to friends and family but I’m not yet totally comfortable talking about it professionally, which is why it is good to have confidential support services available, where you can talk things through.
It’s OK to ask for help.
I have found ways of managing it myself too. I find that getting a good amount ofis really important, regular exercise helps, as well as making sure that I’m eating healthily.
Using any support available to you is important and knowing it’s OK to ask for help is a message I think many people will take strength from. The Our Frontline initiative is there to help all frontline workers with mental health and bereavement support. There are mental health resources on their website that have been created byand to support all teaching staff. There are also from Hospice UK and confidential support through and . I hope that however people choose to get support, they know they deserve this and never stop themselves from reaching out.
Read more stories from workers on the frontline during the pandemic.