Being a teacher means working with different students daily. Problems in our society are on the increase which are leaving an impact on our children. Sometimes, teachers are faced with situations where besides being a teacher, they need to wear other hats such as the mother role. When one is a dedicated teacher, they see their role as much more than the delivery of a lesson or making sure that their students pass exams. Taking on the caring role with students can have a big impact on a teacher as they feel that they are carrying the children’s problems with them even when they leave school. Perhaps they might still worry about them when they are at home.
Poor teacher mental wellbeing can create a lot of problems, not only for the teachers’ long term mental health but also for their students (Harding et al., 2019). When we speak about wellbeing we refer to the experience of feeling happy, satisfied with life and the quality of relationships we build with other people. Thus, if a teacher is struggling with his/her wellbeing, this will affect how they feel about themselves and how they will relate to other people which also includes students.
If you are a teacher and struggling with mental health, you might need to take some time to reflect whether your struggles have started prior to becoming a teacher or after you took the job. Identifying the cause of your distress can be helpful to establish what comes next. If it is the demands being posed on you, the working conditions, pressure to perform or the problems you encounter in the classroom, you need to consider whether there is anything in your control that you can do to change the situation. For example, if you are a newly qualified teacher, the beginning is quite hard because you have to prepare a lot of resources and get used to your new role. Thus, it may be very difficult for you to cope in such a situation. With time, it gets better so do not give up yet. Seek the support of a mentor and colleagues who may also be facing similar challenges and learn from them.
If you have been encountering difficulties with mental health prior to becoming a teacher, then it is important for you to tackle such issues especially if you have been feeling this way for a long time. Seeking professional support is helpful so that you can get the appropriate support e.g. through therapy. If you have a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety, it is very beneficial for you to seek such professional help as it can be difficult to feel better on your own.
In conclusion, if you are a teacher and struggling with your mental health, speak up. In schools there are several services which can help both you and your students. Remember that you do not need to do it on your own. Taking care of yourself is important, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Harding, S. et al. (2019). Is teachers’ mental health and wellbeing associated with students’ mental health and wellbeing? Journal of Affective Disorders, 242(1), 460-466. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.080
Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.