Why Do We Need To Prioritize Teacher Mental Health?

Updated October 21, 2021

While we have all been affected by the coronavirus pandemic on an individual and personal level, many industries and pillars of our society have been deeply impacted as well. One of the most notable impacts of the pandemic has been its effect on the education system.

The school closings that have taken place due to this pandemic are largely unprecedented. Even during the 1918 influenza epidemic, schools closed for a few months, but not nearly on as large of a scale as we are seeing today. Teachers are expected to move their curriculums to a virtual platform, highlighting many of the socioeconomic disparities at play in the American education system. For students who lack access to many resources such as technology and internet connection, it is impossible to attain the same quality of education as their peers 

How Has The Pandemic Affected Teachers' Mental health?

There has been much discussion in the media centered on the students whose education is being negatively impacted by the pandemic. But another group that can be overlooked is the teachers who have been required to move their curriculum online at an extremely rapid pace. Those who teach at schools with a hybrid model, spending some days at a physical school and other days teaching virtually, find it even harder to make effective lesson plans. 

Another factor at play for hybrid or fully in-person sessions is exposure to COVID-19. Teachers can have their classes cancelled with short notice if there is an outbreak in the classroom, and they are often putting themselves at risk by coming in an interacting with kids face-to-face. Going to work every day during a worldwide pandemic, ensuring all students wear their masks properly, and fearing the chance of contracting or spreading COVID-19 are just a few contributing factors to many teachers’ mental distress.

Increased Pressure And Stress

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There is immense pressure and stress with constant change, especially in the education sector, where many teachers plan their lessons weeks or even months in advance. Many teachers have found it difficult to connect with children virtually as they turn off their cameras and microphones or are distracted by their home environment. Similarly, it has been a challenge for many teachers to engage and encourage students to collaborate when they are all sitting separately in their own homes. Many teachers around the country today are struggling with their own stress, anxiety, and mental health issues as they navigate this new shift in their jobs.

Studies have shown that working from home can cause decreased job satisfaction, along with feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and tension. (It’s important to note that everyone is different; the same research found that 16% of employees thrived while working from home.)

A Rise In Anxiety And Depression

Research shows that 90% of employers believe their employees’ behavioral health has suffered from the pandemic. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, rates of anxiety and depression have quadrupled during the pandemic. This is reflected in a survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, in which 84% of teachers reported that teaching was more stressful than it had been before the pandemic.

Overall, we’re seeing an increase in stress and anxiety, coupled with a decrease in morale for our teachers. This leads to a higher susceptibility for burnout, as well as higher odds of leaving teaching jobs. In fact, a quarter of teachers reported that they were likely to leave the teaching profession after finishing the 2020/2021 school year. This is more than three times the usual rate of teacher turnover.

How Therapy Can Help

Therapy is more affordable and accessible than ever before with the rise of telehealth, and it promises positive effects for teachers who are feeling mentally drained. At the very least, therapy offers a safe environment where teachers can vent and share their true thoughts and feelings. Therapists and other mental health professionals can assist teachers in developing healthy stress management skills, improve the effectiveness of their communication, and set and maintain boundaries between work and home.

How Therapy Can Help

Therapy is more affordable and accessible than ever before with the rise of telehealth, and it promises positive effects for teachers who are feeling mentally drained. At the very least, therapy offers a safe environment where teachers can vent and share their true thoughts and feelings. Therapists and other mental health professionals can assist teachers in developing healthy stress management skills, improve the effectiveness of their communication, and set and maintain boundaries between work and home.

How Can Teachers Maintain Good Mental Health During Stressful Times?

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Aside from seeking out counseling or therapy, there are many ways that teachers can support and maintain their mental health.

  • Have open discussions about mental health with others. Teachers can benefit from talking about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with coworkers, family, and friends. Simply sharing your thoughts, rather than bottling them up inside, is a way to relieve stress and see that others are experiencing similar things.
  • Practice self-compassion. Remember, self-care is not selfish. 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 should cut yourself some slack and recognize the stressors that are currently at play in your life.
  • Distinguish between the things you can control and the things you can’t. Unfortunately, during this pandemic, there are some things we don’t have control over. Instead, focus on the things you have control over, and invest your energy in improving what you can.
  • Create a dedicated workspace when working from home. Creating a space that is only used for work is a great idea and helps you maintain that separation between work life and home life. Even if it is just a small nook in your room, having the mental separation between work/home life is hugely beneficial to mental health.
  • Identify and utilize healthy coping mechanisms. It’s wise to make a list of various coping mechanisms that you know positively impact your stress levels. For example, maybe you take a daily walk after dinner and love how it helps you clear your mind. Or maybe you enjoy journaling, meditation, or spending time with your pets. There are many healthy ways to handle the stress that can keep you from becoming overwhelmed and burnt out.
  • Reach out for help when needed. 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. If you feel you’re reaching a breaking point or are struggling to get through everyday life, it’s wise to schedule a session with a mental health professional. They’re armed with the knowledge, expertise, and experience to help you get through tough times.
  • Take care of yourself. As difficult as it can be when under stress, it’s extremely important to get enough sleep, fuel your body with healthy foods, and stay active. Diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle can play a huge role in your stress levels and overall mental health. Generally, those who eat healthily, get plenty of sleep and exercise multiple times each week have lower stress levels and find it easier to cope with life’s challenges.

The Benefits Of Counseling For Teachers

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If you’re a teacher experiencing high stress and anxiety levels during the pandemic, counseling may be a good choice for you. Seeking counseling doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you’re making a conscious choice to take charge of your mental health with the help of a certified professional. Nowadays, it’s not even necessary to leave your house to attend counseling. BetterHelp is an affordable, accessible online counseling platform where you can speak with certified mental health professionals and work through the sources of your stress.

BetterHelp helps teachers with their mental health by empowering them with easily accessible physical and mental health information. In addition, we continue to expand healthcare worldwide with virtual care options. Those who live in healthcare deserts can now speak to medical and mental health professionals from the comfort of their own homes. 

Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from teachers experiencing different challenges. 

“I love working with rose. I'm just new to counseling and her advice is insanely accurate and applicable. Thank you for this awesome service. Sincerely, an overworked teacher and Mom”

Learn More About Rose Maturo

“Shawna has extensive experience with school counseling which comes really useful as I am an elementary school teacher. I feel like Shawna understands the settings well and can give me very good work related advice. For my personal life also, I feel like Shawna can relate to my experiences and often openly talks about her own experiences in similar situations which puts things into perspective. She introduces a variety of CBT tools which help change your point of view and develop as a person.”

Learn More About Shawna Pankonin


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