Test your knowledge about some of the approaches to workplace mental health issues found within this website.
This category can be very broad and include all levels of education and the entire span of workers. This section focuses on teachers who spend time isolated from colleagues in classrooms with young students. The following issues may present as significant stressors for educators leading to increased risk of mental health issues. The proposed approaches may help reduce this risk.
Issue: Poor perception of school in local community
Proposed approach: This may impact the sense of value and pride in a teacher's work. Determine why perception is poor and develop an action plan to address issues identified.
Issue: Culture of indifference or cynicism.
Proposed approach: Have students, teachers and principals collaborate, design and implement programs and events to raise school spirit. The process of deciding what events and the planning stages should be seen as just as important as the actual event in creating a more positive and cohesive school community. It may be helpful to include parents and other community members in the planning of such activities.
Issue: Inadequate or poor overall leadership from principal or administration
Proposed approach: Coaching up or helping to improve the boss's effectiveness can be a controversial and complex thing to do, yet may be crucial to improving the work environment. Read Coaching Up [PDF] and When the Boss May have a Mental Illness [PDF] to find some tips on how to do this. It is important that any suggested improvements include action on the part of the teachers as well as the principal so that everyone is working towards a solution.
Issue: Work overload exacerbated by excessive paperwork and administrative requirements.
Proposed approach: Carefully consider options and brainstorm alternatives for obtaining information. Some school boards have introduced computer programs that significantly streamline this requirement of the job.
Issue: Fear for personal safety.
Proposed approach: It is important to provide a balanced approach. Preparing for risk and taking measures to protect safety is an obvious requirement. In addition to this practical strategy, a calm and reassuring administrator should do what is necessary to provide a sense of safety when all necessary measures are in place. Teachers should also feel supported when a threat or act of aggression has been made against them. Immediate and supportive action should be taken by the administration as well as following up with the teacher after an incident to see how he or she is doing.
Issue: Isolation from colleagues.
Proposed approach: While teachers often value time with students, the relationship is primarily one of giving. The need to receive support, recognition, acceptance and belonging often go unmet in the classroom with some pleasant exceptions. These exceptions, however, are often not sufficient. Encouraging teachers to interact, support and encourage each other can be the difference between a stressed out school environment and an energized one. Before school meetings, mentorship, lunch time activities, after school events, planning time that is shared among friendly colleagues, and other activities can increase the sense of camaraderie among teachers. Ask the teachers what works for them and then help to create a situation where this can happen.