Teacher well-being and mental health awareness

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#TeacherAppreciationMonth #SupportOurTeachers
By SchoolNet South Africa
Date: 12 October 2022

The #SupportOurTeachers campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of building strong support structures for teachers. Teaching is one of the most rewarding and challenging professions. 

Whilst teachers shape young minds, inspire children to greatness, and play pivotal roles in the life of a child, teachers also experience many stressors. Demanding curriculum, administration, lack of resources, violence, and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are just some of a very long list of stressors.

This can obviously exert a toll on the mental well-being of teachers. In this blog, the focus is on the access to mental health support interventions for teachers. This is in line with our activities for the month of October: Mental Health Awareness and Teacher Appreciation.

The well-being and mental health of teachers needs to be a priority and failing to do so can likely lead to an unhealthy schooling environment. We encourage teachers to recognise symptoms of stress and find coping mechanisms and seek mental health support if and when needed.  

To hear more about teachers and mental healthcare please join us on 18 October, between 10:00 am and 11:00 am, where SchoolNet South Africa will be hosting a webinar titled: Mental health and the wellbeing of teachers

In conversation with SchoolNet South Africa about teachers and mental healthcare will be Educator Wellness SA and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Please follow this link to join the webinar

Tips for teachers on looking after your wellness

The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) was established in 1952 and is currently a non-profit company. SASOP is actively involved in de-stigmatising mental illness both locally and internationally and in the fight against discrimination against people who suffer from mental illness. The SASOP is managed by a team of psychiatrists who are elected volunteers. 

In an article, Teachers at risk of anxiety amidst pressure and disruption by SASOP, teachers are urged to take practical steps to maintain their mental health and reduce stress levels, starting with focusing on what they can control. Below are the steps referenced from the article:

  1. Choosing how to spend their time and making healthy choices such as getting sufficient sleep, staying hydrated, limiting alcohol intake, and eating regular, healthy meals.
  2. Make time for self-care – exercise, rest, reading, writing in a journal, meditating, or spending time on a hobby helps to create balance and promote mental health.
  3. Model self-compassion. “We teach students the basics of self-compassion, but we also need to model it. Be kinder to yourself. This will benefit your mental wellness.”
  4. Set reasonable expectations. “We have to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a pandemic and it is not business as usual. We can’t expect to be as productive or as organised as before while having to balance teaching, caretaking, and managing households. Set small realistic goals and expectations.”
  5. Maintain connection. Covid-19 shutdowns and restrictions have made the last 18 months a time of isolation, while social connection promotes mental health and wellness.

Resources for teacher wellness and mental health 

  1. From the World Health Organisation, please find a downloadable stress guide to help with building routines and using practical steps for teachers.
    • Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide is a stress management guide for coping with adversity. The guide aims to equip people with practical skills to help them cope with stress. A few minutes each day are enough to practice self-help techniques. The guide can be used alone or with the accompanying audio exercises.
    • Informed by evidence and extensive field testing, the guide is for anyone who experiences stress, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. 
  1. South African Depression and Anxiety Group is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group and is involved in counseling, outreach, and capacity-building work throughout South Africa. SADAG resources for parents and teachers.
  2. For other organisations that one can reach out to in times of need, please follow the link.
  3. Educator Wellness SA is committed to offering the highest quality services and products and delivering up-to-date seminars and workshops, to contribute towards the holistic well-being of educators.
  4. The South African Council for Educators (SACE) was established to enhance the status of the education profession. SACE registers all qualified South African teachers, which means you need a SACE registration number before you can teach. The organisation also manages the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system and encourages the development of teachers through the system. Below are some of the CPTD  course teachers can sign up for to aid them with skills and knowledge about mental healthcare. SACE article for tips teachers can adopt for mental healthcare. 
    • Anxiety, Sensory Integration and Working Memory: This talk focuses on identifying and responding to childhood anxiety, the relationship between working memory and anxiety, and the influence a child’s sensory system has on anxiety.
    • Overcoming Compassion Fatigue: This workshop will focus on building awareness of Compassion Fatigue among educators and health professionals as well as the ethical responsibility of professionals to make self-care a priority in order to sustain their work.
  1. Three University of Cape Town (UCT) academics Dr. Patti Silbert, Tembeka Mzozoyana, and Ferial Parker co-developed the Psychological First Aid for Educators short course. According to UCT news, “the university-approved South African Council of Educators (SACE)-accredited short course equips teachers with the tools they need to support learners who experience anxiety and stress in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Psychological First Aid for Schools Field Operations Guide. “Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S) is an evidence-informed intervention model to assist students, families, school personnel, and school partners in the immediate aftermath of an emergency.”

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