If you look up teaching with mental illness, the majority of the articles you’ll come across are about how teachers can help their students who are suffering. It’s wonderful that there is literature to help teachers figure this all out, however, what about them?
It’s hard to think of a teacher as someone without superpowers. After all, don’t you remember them being all-knowing and powerful in school? Anytime you had a problem whether it was in your work or your life, they were there to save the day. But what we need to start adding to the dialogue involving mental health is talking about teachers who suffer from mental illnesses.
Why Is It Important To Talk About Teachers With Mental Illness?
Like I said before, they aren’t superheroes even though they come off that way. They’ve experienced trauma, their brains have imbalances, and they go through more stress than the average person. Considering their job is to mold our future society, wouldn’t it make sense that they were at their best?
If someone is quick to anger because of their anxiety, this could rub off on their students making them think that it is appropriate behavior. If they are so consumed with self-doubt, their lesson plans may not be as optimal as they are capable of. Teachers are underpaid, underappreciated, and overwhelmed. It’s no wonder their mental health is suffering because of their job.
The reason we need to normalize this conversation is to make it easier for teachers to ask for help. If they hide in the shadows and can’t take time off work that they need, their symptoms can get worse making teaching harder, and the students suffer for it. With teaching being a profession that has been around since the beginning of time, is it really that bad? Haven’t we had enough time to perfect the art of teaching and treating our teachers well? Studies say no, we haven’t.
Are Teachers Really Suffering?
In America, about 61% of teachers expressed that their job was always or often stressful. To the point that more than half of them said that they don’t have the same enthusiasm that they once had when starting their teaching career. 26.4% of teachers are being bullied, threatened, or harassed at their job, as opposed to other positions in America who are at 7%. Creating a harmful environment for our teachers right here at home. There are aspects of the job that teachers know they are going to experience, but they could be making their mental health even worse.
Ways Teaching Can Make Mental Illness Worse
Excessive Work Load
It’s no surprise that a common complaint among teachers with poor mental health is the workload, have you seen what they have to do? What teachers are expected to do is enough to make anyone question their own sanity. Having a full work day at the school with the children, then staying late to finish lesson plans, then bringing homework home to grade, it’s almost as if no one expects teachers to have a life outside of their job.
What would you do if your job required that you pay for the majority of the supplies you need to get your job done? Probably quit and find a new one if you weren’t getting paid enough to compensate for the burden.
But teachers are an exquisite breed that sees the need for good teachers to help students and somehow find the strength to push through. Even if it means getting a second job. Nearly 1 in 5 teachers have to work a second job just to cover their bases. Which is an extreme amount of pressure considering how much time and work goes into the career they went to college for.
Not only do teachers need to manage their own health, but they also have to know the warning signs in their students and know what coping mechanisms to teach them to try and help. They are also always on the watch for potential fights to break out, making sure everyone in class has food for lunch, making sure that a child isn’t showing signs of neglect at home, making sure that any child who is falling behind gets special help, making sure that the children are safe if there is a school shooter, and that is only just a few hats that teachers wear.
If a teacher doesn’t catch something the moment it happens, they are reprimanded for not paying close enough attention. Why didn’t this teacher stop the bullying? Didn’t the teacher notice that their student wasn’t showering because of the smell? How did this teacher not see the signs of drug abuse? Teachers are supposed to be at the edge of their seat at all times, and it can become tiresome and damaging.
Feeling Like You Have To Hide Your Illness
With the negative stigma surrounding mental health, it would appear as if schools don’t want to hire people with a mental illness. Feeling like you can’t talk about your mental illness makes you feel ashamed and broken which can make your symptoms worse. Not being able to confide in other teachers can make them feel so alone. Not being allowed to talk about an illness is in no way helping the person get better.
How Mental Illness Can Affect The Students
Quick To Anger
There are many mental health disorders that involve getting angry too quickly. Frustration and irritability are common with those who suffer from things like anxiety or depression. If the teacher is quick to anger, this type of behavior might be seen as acceptable by the students. This can also cause a classroom to be controlled by fear which isn’t a healthy learning environment.
There are instances where people with mental health issues have a hard time communicating appropriately. In a job where communication with the parents, the students, and the faculty are so important, this is a symptom that can make things worse in the classroom. If teachers could have a safe place to talk about this issue and find ways to deal with it, then there might be less of a problem.
Having anxiety makes you think the worst thing that could happen is always a possibility. This can cause a teacher to become oppressive toward their students, giving them less room to grow and mature by themselves. By reducing anxiety, teachers can have a better handle on what happens in the classroom.
Physical Repercussions For Teachers
Studies show that having too much stress in your life can cause hypertension. Not only is putting these teachers in stressful situations five days a week degrading their mental health, but their heart’s health is also suffering as well.
Researchers have found that you might be more likely to get type-2 diabetes when you have depression than when you don’t. By not giving teachers the care that they need to take care of their mental state, it could be causing them to develop this disease.
While researchers pooled together information on cancer patients, they found that there may be a link between psychological distress and cancer. In the study, they found that cancer patients with poor mental health were more likely to die from their disease. While mental health still isn’t taken as seriously as physical health, science is starting to prove to us how essential psychological wellness is.
What Can Teachers Do?
Teachers can’t shorten their work weeks, they can’t avoid every fight that happens on campus, and they can’t ignore a student in need. They could, but it’s not in their nature as an educator. But there are some things that teachers can do to help make their lives easier so that their job’s demands aren’t wearing them out so thin.
Seeing a professional about your mental health is always a good idea. Having someone you trust and can confide in who will have a book load of answers for you can help lighten the burden. They can equip you with appropriate coping mechanisms to get you through the day which is something teachers may need more of. Sure, they know how to help their students because of recent training. But they may not know the right ways to go about their own personal situations.
Make Things Easier
Easier said than done, I know, but hear me out. Finding a group of teachers who you can confide in and trust can help you have someone to help you throughout your workday. If you have co-workers that are ahead of the game, maybe they can help you with planning or grading papers, so you aren’t so overwhelmed. They can also show you any tips and tricks they have to stay organized and ahead.
Try to stay organized in your classroom. If you can’t find anything, you might start having a little panic attack if you are already anxious. And if a student can do the job, have them help. They can organize books or hand out papers while you take care of another task.
Open Dialogue With The School
If the school you’re at doesn’t have any leniency for teachers with mental illness, try to change that. Write a thesis, talk to the board, gather together as teachers and explain to them what needs to be done. Even if it’s just putting another counselor for you to utilize on site, that’s still a win. And where you get one, many will follow with persistence.
Take Mental Health Days
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it may be easy to put your needs aside to make sure you are in that classroom with those amazing kids. But if you neglect to take the sick time you have to help yourself, then you might not be able to be the best you can be. Sick days aren’t just for a cold, make sure you know your limits.
There should be no shame in taking medicine to make your brain more efficient. Taking medicine as a tool to manage your condition should help make things a lot less detrimental to your health. If you don’t feel comfortable taking pharmaceuticals, CBD has shown in studies that it may help with many mental health issues, as well as helping with hypertension and diabetes.
Mental Disorders CBD Has Shown In Studies It May Help With
- Anger Management
- Panic Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
What Can We Do?
If you aren’t a teacher, what can you do? You can’t change how other faculty treats them, but you can be mindful of how you exchange conversation with your child’s teacher. You can be understanding. If your school doesn’t offer support to their teachers, you can write a letter to the school board or other faculty demanding better treatment for your teachers. And you can remind your child to be respectful in the classroom. Donating money to schools is always a great option, but don’t financially strain yourself because your heart goes out to these wonderful people.
Are you a teacher who struggles with mental illness? What are some ways that you have changed your life for the better to help? What are some things that parents have done to help? We would love to hear about it in the comment section below!