Why Prioritize Teacher Mental Health? Examining Mental Health Effects Of The Pandemic
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected most of us on an individual level, many industries have been deeply impacted as well. One of the most notable impacts for many has been on the education system.
The school closings that have taken place due to this pandemic are deemed by many to be largely unprecedented. Even during the 1918 influenza epidemic, for example, some schools closed for a few months—however, this was considered by many to be done at a quantitatively smaller scale.
With the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, many teachers were expected to move their curriculums to a virtual platform, highlighting many of the possible socioeconomic disparities at play in the American education system—and taking a toll on teachers’ mental health.
In this article, we’ll explore the mental health effects of the pandemic on teachers, as well as a few tips for how to care for mental health in stressful times.
How Has The Pandemic Affected Teachers' Mental Health?
Teaching can be a stressful occupation for many. With the events of the pandemic, many teachers have faced the added stressors of shifting to a remote or hybrid model, keeping students engaged virtually, ensuring students wear masks properly when in school, their own risks of exposure to COVID-19 and more.
For instance, one study found that teachers reported a greater prevalence of anxiety disorder-related symptoms than did those in other professions, and that remote teachers might have experienced higher levels of distress than those teaching in person.
Finally, a survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center found data that suggests that 84% of teachers said that teaching was more stressful than it had been before the pandemic.
We do want to note: While the statistics highlight the primary concerns of teachers in the scope of their experiences, it can be possible for teachers living through the post-pandemic landscape to find relief from this stress. Online therapy and other supportive strategies can be critical to the healing process and can be incorporated in a complementary way that promotes the highest level of healing.
How Can Teachers Care For Their Mental Health During Stressful Times?
There are many ways that teachers can support their mental health, both on their own and through the help of a therapist. We’ve included a few ideas for your consideration below:
1. Practice Self-Compassion
When times are hard, you may consider being kind to yourself. In doing this, you can try to treat yourself as you would a friend who was going through a tough time. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hold yourself accountable, but it does mean that you can “cut yourself some slack” and recognize the stressors that could be currently at play in your life. This form of acceptance can be helpful and validating, possibly promoting a higher quality of life.
2. Distinguish Between The Things You Can Control And The Things You Can’t
There are some things we don’t generally have control over. Instead, you can try to focus on the things that you do have control over, investing your energy in improving what you can. This can be a helpful mindset shift that can reduce mental strain.
3. Create A Dedicated Workspace When Working From Home
You might consider creating a space that is only used for work to possibly help you to maintain that separation between your work life and home life. Even if it is just a small nook in your room, having the mental separation between work and home life may help you to unplug from work once you’re done for the day, possibly empowering you to be more fully present and relaxed in your off-work hours.
4. Identify And Utilize Healthy Coping Mechanisms
It can be helpful to make a list of various coping mechanisms that you know positively impact your mood and help you reduce stress. For example, maybe taking a daily walk after dinner helps you clear your mind. Or maybe you enjoy journaling, meditation, or spending time with your pets. There are many healthy ways to handle stress, so you can experiment to find what’s best for you—and the list can offer several helpful jumping-off points if you feel stuck.
5. Take Care Of Yourself
As difficult as it can be when under stress, it can be important to get enough sleep, fuel your body with healthy foods, and stay active. Diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle can play a role in managing your stress levels and overall mental health.
6. Reach Out For Help When Needed
If you’re experiencing difficulties, you might want to reach out to a coworker who is going through a similar situation, or you may have a few friends and family members that you know you can turn to when times are tough. Additionally, if you feel you’re reaching a breaking point or are struggling to get through your day, it may be wise to schedule a session with a mental health professional. They can offer you specialized knowledge, expertise, and experience to help you get through tough times.
How Online Therapy Can Help
If you would like additional support with your mental health, you may also consider seeking help through online therapy. Virtual therapists can help individuals sort through thoughts and emotions, develop healthy stress management skills, and cope with life’s challenges in the most effective way for their specific needs.
For busy teachers or others who may already feel stretched thin, the idea of finding time for therapy can feel overwhelming. In these cases, online therapy can be beneficial—offering the options of remote sessions, which may be easier for many to fit into hectic schedules.
Research suggests that online therapy can be an effective option for a range of concerns, including stress. For instance, one such study explored the efficacy of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) that was designed to possibly reduce stress in adults with elevated perceived stress or stress-related disorders.
The researchers concluded that the results of the study “provide evidence of the efficacy of ICBT to reduce stress, anxiety (disorders), and depressive symptoms in adults suffering from elevated stress or stress-related disorders”.
How is the mental health of teachers?
A January 2023 survey of K-12 grade level teachers found teacher well-being was worse than the average well-being for other U.S. adult workers. In terms of mental wellness, 19% of teachers reported symptoms of depression, 56% reported symptoms of burnout, and 58% reported frequent job-related stress.
These numbers are an improvement over 2021 and 2022, when teachers were under more stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the earlier stages of the pandemic, many teachers had to manage online learning in addition to teaching in a school building, along with stress about the virus itself and interactions with similarly stressed parents.
In the 2023 survey, three-fourths of teachers reported that their schools provided assistance with some type of mental health support. But, just over half of these teachers viewed the mental health care offered as adequate.
Do teachers have mental health issues?
As of January 2023, teachers report symptoms of depression at rates similar to those of other working adults in the U.S. However, they report higher levels of job-related stress, difficulty coping with job-related stress, and burnout.
Stress isn't distributed equally across all teachers. For example, an elementary teacher is more likely to report facing job-related stress than other teachers. Similarly, the average special education teacher reports not receiving enough academic support in the classroom.
Difficulty coping with stress suggests teachers may not be engaging in enough self-care activities. They may also not be receiving the support they need from their employer. For example, only 17% reported receiving enough of a planning period to get their work done, which suggests many must bring home work that erodes self-care time.
Why is a teachers mental health important?
A teacher's mental health impacts their own well-being and also affects their students. In January 2023, 56% of teachers surveyed reported experiencing burnout. Burnout can make a person feel chronically exhausted and negative about their work, as well as reduce their ability to perform effectively.
How does teachers mental health affect students?
A teacher's mental health can influence their students' development academically, socially, and emotionally. When a teacher is burned out, they feel disconnected from their work and are not able to perform their job as well as they usually can. As a result, they may be less able to support students.
Is teaching a stressful job?
In January 2023, 58% of teachers reported experiencing frequent job-related stress and 17% reported being unable to adequately manage stress. In comparison, 33% of all working adults reported frequent job-related stress and 9% reported difficulty managing stress.
Is it time to quit teaching?
In 2022, a McKinsey research study of teachers and school counselors found that about 1/3rd of teachers surveyed reported planning to leave their job before the next school year. Younger teachers and teachers working in low-income districts were more likely to report planning to leave.
Why are teachers leaving the profession in 2023?
According to a McKinsey research study, teachers are leaving the profession because they "feel overworked and undervalued," which is to say, they do not feel they are working under reasonable expectations.
Many want increased pay, are upset by what they consider to be too-high expectations, feel their well-being is compromised by the job, are frustrated with leadership, or desire more workplace flexibility. Results from the Rand survey also suggest other reasons for unhappiness at work, such as an unreasonable amount of meetings and professional development requirements.
What percentage of teachers are depressed?
In a January 2023 survey conducted by the Rand Corporation, 19% of teachers reported experiencing symptoms of depression.
What percentage of teachers struggle with mental health?
A scoping review of multiple research studies found that teachers face a risk of stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression. The percentage of teachers struggling with mental health varies depending on their district and class sizes, but in some instances, up to 41% of teachers experienced anxiety and up to 77% experienced depression.
Can you be a teacher with anxiety?
Many teachers continue working even though they have anxiety. However, treating anxiety and other mental health problems is important. When a teacher is struggling mentally and emotionally, they may not be able to teach as well as usual, and children may be impacted.
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