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Do teachers have adequate mental health support to cope with classroom stress?

Most education programs and initiatives are student centred. They have been developed to address a teacher's approach to pedagogical challenges (How they teach or what they teach). The success of the programs are based on the response of the students. There isn't any consideration for the psychological well being of the individual that deals with the unfiltered mass of humanity that enters their classroom with a sense of entitlement. Nor does it consider or protect their emotional well being from the assortment of parents and their often misguided sense of entitlement. Why isn't there first and foremost a support system for the intrepid individuals who place themselves in the direct path of raw ego on a daily basis?

  • May 17 2013: Hi Gord,
    what an important topic this is.

    Educators are undervalued in just about any system, and I agree, they are often subjected to an enormous amount of stress. They are, after all, partly responsible for our most valuable possessions, our children! If they are not mentally and emotionally stable, how can they successfully pass on knowledge and teach kids to be mentally and emotionally stable members of society?

    I live in the Netherlands, where health care is (thankfully) quite good. If someone feels they are 'losing it', and can't cope, there is an intricate network of support in virtually all shapes and sizes to help those who need it. I know many educators suffer from stress-related afflictions, like burn-outs for example, and receive the time and care they need under our current health system to get themselves back together again.
    • May 17 2013: Hi Lizanne - It's great to hear there are resources available to teaching professionals in the Netherlands. There are similar resources available in Canada. I think access to good health care is essential to maintaining a positive environment in a classroom setting.

      Does the Netherlands also take a proactive approach? Are there courses available in education degree programs that teach personal coping skills? I know in Canada most programs focus on goals, norms, and standards for conducting the process of education and don't provide stress management training.In addition there appears to be scant training provided regarding the organizational culture of education institutions.

      I also question whether Principals are provided adequate human resources and management skills when pursuing their post graduate degrees. The lack of effective management skills increases stress levels.
      • May 18 2013: What a good question, Gord.
        I looked up your question, and found a wide range of training and courses designed for educators to cope with and improve their mental stability. Now, whether these courses are mandatory for all teachers, or whether they are initiated after someone has already 'burned out', I don't know.

        I do know that Holland has its feet firmly on the ground when it comes to this kind of thing - mental issues are taken very seriously, but I wonder if they are offered within the school system itself...

        Running is a school can be compared to running a business (which, arguably, is where the problem lies). I agree, principals need those skills too, in order to properly delegate and keep their own heads above water!
      • Jun 15 2013: PTSD is quite common among teachers but it is not acknowledged especially since it is often attributed to the administrators.
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    May 17 2013: I think teachers would be able to cope because they know that these things (the entitlement mentality of most parents and pupils).
    However, teachers deserve more than they are being given in terms of pay and encouragement. The tendency to underestimate the contribution of other stakeholders to the education sector and to crucify teachers for all the failings is bad and unfair.
    • May 17 2013: Absolutely. It's unfair for the system to condemn teachers, when it does not provide strong leadership. It really feels like a boot strap approach to maintaining a healthy work environment.
  • May 17 2013: Does anybody have adequate mental health support?
    • May 17 2013: Yes, everyone deserves adequate support, but all professions don't have equal needs.

      Unlike a profession based on clearly defined, easily accessible standards that have little or no direct connection with the whims of the public (like engineering), teaching is a public service that currently expects the professionals working in the industry to relate with people who believe they know what's best for their child.

      I liken it to other service industry jobs such as being a waitress or waiter (albeit a significantly different level of skills and knowledge) .Teachers aren't just dealing with the obnoxious behaviour of people who think their steak should be a bit more pink in the middle. They're dealing with impassioned, often ignorant parents, who believe their child is being unjustly persecuted by an obviously vindictive teacher.

      Then imagine an Administration trying to manage a work environment that is assessed from the bottom up. In other words, it's not informed by teacher's education and experience, but rather by the standard deviation from a norm created by the same faulty system.

      I think it would be simplistic to believe all professions have the same level of stress. The opinion would lack empathy, the quality that differentiates the humanities from the sciences (a quality absolutely essential in teaching).
      • May 18 2013: Okay Are you saying the rest of us are bad? Really there are ways to measure stress - Suicide rates may be best. Teachers have a low rate. Finally, different personalities do different things. Private schools esp. elite schools and successful foreign systems have different distributions of personality types. Okay - even when I was a student, I had to listen to teachers complain. They have a reputation about it. Life is tough and then you die. There is a huge waiting list to teach like everything else. Do they have legitimate complaints - Sure - everyone does. If you hate a job then quit, There are more $7.25 an hour jobs being created.
  • Jun 15 2013: Support the Healthy Workplace Bill. Read and discuss Breaking the Silence by Joseph Blasé.
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    May 24 2013: According to the first ranking that came up just now, military are most stressful, then fire. Interestingly public relations executives and senior executives were next, and then police.
    In terms of support services or the resources to procure them, the executives on the list tend to enjoy high pay and perquisites, and police and fire personnel typically have very good pay and benefits compared to other public employees.

    [This was supposed to respond to Theodore's question about relative stress level. The benefits people in these jobs get are meant to support them for the risks they take, but are often not adequate in practice]
  • May 19 2013: Mentel health is a must quality of being a teacher.
    From my experience what I understand'Mental health' means:be positive in life,be loving,be warm-hearted,be tolerant,be patient.People describe teaching job as the greatest job under the sun in my local place.So I think being a teacher,should have a heart with sunshine .
    Once I experienced the most depressed and stressful period in my teaching job.Now I reflect it:In fact it was the most depressed and stressful period in my life as well.It was the crisis peior of my growing life.Now I am still growing everyday,it seems those crisis peior is the fundamental of my everyday growing now.It is kinda of magical...wowoow
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    May 18 2013: Where does the stress level of teachers rank with the stress level of cops, firemen, first responders, soldiers etc?
    • May 18 2013: I think it depends on which list is sourced. An interesting question none the less. It raises other questions..Are there different types of stress? Is one form of stress more manageable than another? Is there a difference between the level of stress and the degree of stress experienced? (Some people enlist in order to experience that level of stress. They may be invigorated by the adrenalin rush.)
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    May 18 2013: G'day Gord

    Put simply, no!!

    I personally know of a teacher who is depressed to the max & the only assistance that was coming was from one of the cleaners.

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    May 17 2013: Teaching can be, as you write, an extremely stressful job. I don't know that it was nearly as stressful a half century ago as now and is more stressful in some geographic locations than others and also in some subjects.

    In answer to your question of mental health resources, three "resources" come to mind. First, particularly in places where there is an ample supply of potential teachers, teaching credential programs and later school buildings will take an applicant's apparent personality, resilience, background level of anxiety, and so forth into account. For example, in the secondary credential program through which I was certified, at least two people who were originally admitted were not allowed to continue, one, I believe, because of a problem with extreme temper and the other for inadequate substantive command of the subject. In student teaching also some teaching candidates were not approved after their practice with the mentor teacher.

    Second, teachers in the US, at least, tend to have good health insurance, which means they have access to whatever mental health services the health insurance covers.

    Third, a school district often, perhaps always, has an Employee Assistance Program that focuses on issues of this kind on an individual or group basis.

    If teachers are lucky they work in an environment in which they have support from peers and from some building administrators rather than an administrative environment in which the leadership philosophy aims to keep people at a high stress level. I don't know how typical it is for district's to consider this aspect of leadership into their evaluations of principals, but it is likely, typically, a minor matter to those distant from the classroom.
    • May 17 2013: Interesting information Fritzie. It's fortunate that there are resources available. It's unfortunate that work environments depend on luck.
      • Jun 15 2013: In all my years of teaching and listening to my colleagues of various grades, subjects, and states...the problem is administration. There are very few principals that are qualified and understand their job. As an excellent teacher is a special combination of skills and intuitions, a successful administrator needs to have a special mix: an academic, ethical, a person who understands their charge is to support and nurture educators, not as mine put it " my job is every year to focus on several teachers and take them out". Unfortunately for 7 years she has done only that, ending the careers of the most ethical, passionate, skilled educators I have known- they were so threatening as they reflected back to her all her inadequacies.
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    May 17 2013: The teacher is like an axel of the wheel.
    He or she should always be mentally and physically strong to nurture a group of young brains.
    Education system must look after the teachers well for our own benefit. They must be trained at regular intervals by experts in the field so that teachers can always deliver what we want from them.
    • May 17 2013: I couldn't agree more Adesh. Also as I had stated in my reply to Lizanne, I think undergraduate programs need to proactively address these concerns by providing relevant courses.
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    May 17 2013: There is no generalized "YES " / "NO" answer to the main question .
    However your explanation has some food for thought yet can't be answer with straight forward "YES or NO "
    • May 17 2013: Salim - I believe the main question can be answered yes or no based on a general impression of the support provided in your local area. But I agree the explanation requires a reasoned response.