Mental Health Dr Mazvi Machinga
Schools are increasingly seen as places where teachers and children are to perform well, but this hinge on both having sound mental health.
What is your school doing?
Schools have a key role to play in the promotion of emotional well-being and mental health knowledge. It is disturbing that some stories in the media have shown cases of some teachers participating in inappropriate behaviours to the disadvantage of the learning process of children. This should not be the case at all.
To ensure students’ success, teachers well-being is a necessity. In our schools, it is important to monitor the mental health of both teachers and students. The issues of mental health include depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Teachers should behave responsibly and feel confident about themselves. They need to know that they play an important role in the lives and learning process of our children.
Thus, schools should take mental health issues of teachers seriously. However, the question is: are schools doing something to care for their teachers’ mental health? If you are part of a school system, how is your school promoting good mental health for teachers?
Does your school have programs to promote sound mental health among teachers? How are you as a teacher taking care of your mental health. These are not easy questions. Very little is done for mental health as compared to the attention given to physical health. Regrettably, consequences of unaddressed mental health issues are quite dire and can manifest as problems for schools and children’s learning.
I have come across situations where teachers have been given sick leave for physical ailments, which is great, but when they struggle with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder they are forced to report on duty. Yet, a mentally unstable teacher can be very dangerous for our classrooms.
The purpose of this article is to discuss why teacher mental health matters and the how to improve. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health, authorities and families wait until for mental illness/breakdown symptoms for them to respond rather than helping people before they get sick.
There is need for detecting signs of mental distress early. Schools are supposed to make great strides towards fully supporting the mental health of teachers. Here are some ways your school can apply to promote sound mental health among teachers:
Things schools can do to help teachers mental health
Show you care and give your teachers time and attention.
Encourage your teachers to have better knowledge about good mental health. Let them take the Mental Health First Aid training. This training enables teachers to recognise signs of mental distress and how to respond.
Make sure your teachers have access to high quality information on protecting and preserving good mental health at school. This can be done by having some short presentations at school. Staff meetings need not to be only on academic issues but occasionally meetings can address important wellness and mental health issues of teachers.
Have a wellness day for your teachers where they can engage in various self-care activities
Review teacher workload that may adversely impact on their mental and physical health.
Encourage open communication at your school and make your school safe place.
Things teachers can do for themselves
As a teacher stay connected- The Mental Health Foundation states that “people who are more socially connected to family, friends and their communities are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems”. So, do not isolate yourself.
Keep learning- Learning does not have to mean formal education. It can be anything that develops your knowledge in any area. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new will enhance this. The feeling of achievement new skills can give you can help your emotional well-being and keeps you feeling good. This can also help you cope with stressful situations.
Surround yourself with people who are positive and make use of positive spiritual resources
Be active — As well as known physical benefits, exercise can help improve your mood, self-esteem and ability to deal with stress
Learn stress management techniques. Other schools have arranged for teachers to have free or subsidised access to stress-relieving therapies such as massage and gym. Some have incorporated exercise into the school day, without too much disruption e.g. 20-minute activities that takes place at break or lunch time.
If you feel overwhelmed, don’t try dealing with the situation alone, seek professional help.
Remember, teachers’ poor mental health may be the underlying factor behind risk behaviours (including substance abuse, risky sexual activity) so promote your teachers sound mental health.
Dr. Mazvita Machinga is a qualified psychotherapist and mental health consultant based in Mutare. For professional counseling and trainings in Mental Health First Aid, call 0771754 519 /0778 838410 or email [email protected]