Do you feel comfortable talking about mental health?

Thomas Courtley, ex teacher and LessonUp education specialist

Thomas Courtley

Education Specialist

Not every teacher feels comfortable talking about mental health with students, colleagues, or managers. However, promoting dialogue around the topic supports an open culture, and offers positive role models.

Talking about mental health with your students

Nowadays more and more people identify themselves as neurodivergent. There is a noticeable trend among young people who claim to have conditions like ADHD, ADD, or autism with limited supporting evidence. Self-diagnosis has become somewhat fashionable, creating a climate where mental health issues are sometimes perceived with scepticism and distrust. This phenomenon can complicate matters for students and teachers who genuinely experience neurodivergence.

The importance of discussing mental health remains undiminished, perhaps even more so in light of these developments. It becomes imperative to engage students in conversations about the authentic nature of mental health conditions, caution them against self-diagnosis, and educate them about the appropriate channels for diagnosis and support.

While it's natural to occasionally observe signs of potential mental health issues in your students, you might hesitate to address them, attributing them to typical childhood behaviours, daydreaming, or distractibility. However, if your intuition suggests that something is genuinely amiss, it is advisable to initiate a conversation with your supervisor or line manager. Together, you can explore potential solutions and offer support to a student who might need it.

Teachers are extremely important because they have the power to change students’ lives by showing humanity and compassion to all of them, no matter who they are.
Thomas Courtley
Education Specialist

Can LessonUp help you gather insight on how students are feeling?

Certainly. Although a digital platform will never replace an open hearted conversation with your students, sometimes people feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns in the safety of a digital space.

To facilitate students sharing their thoughts on mental health, you could regularly offer them a poll asking how they are feeling, or an open question concerning topics such as feeling happy, sad, confused, unable to focus, or to talk in a group. Some students might find the perfect podium to express feelings and concerns that they would never dream to voice.

Talking about mental health with your colleagues & managers

As stated in an interesting article published in the Guardian, ‘Teachers worry about the impact of admitting to a mental health issue on their career.’ 

Teachers like you are seen as people who are in control, and who guard upon students’ development and wellbeing. You are the ones who offer guidance and have a duty of care towards students. This is an enormous responsibility that makes your job so incredibly important, and at times very emotional and energy consuming. As stated also by one of our Education Specialists, ‘the sense of purpose that you have as a teacher or as a school leader is immense: it's a vocation rather than a job.’ That sounds amazing and inspiring, but could be experienced as an immense commitment, which on the long run might eat up one’s energy. 

Reducing the stigma associated with mental illness necessitates more than just a shift in the mindset of school principals and senior administrators. It entails a broader change in perspective within the general public and among parents, where there is an understanding that teaching can be a demanding profession, and teachers may experience stress or require treatment at times.

The sense of purpose that you have as a teacher or as a school leader is immense: it's a vocation rather than a job.
Claire Coates
Education Specialist

Can LessonUp help you express your feelings?

LessonUp might provide the perfect private platform to create a well-being check in for all teachers and students alike. All information shared within the platform is private and falls under strict GDPR regulations. This makes it safe to express and share possible issues and emotions without feeling under scrutiny.

To make it even safer and more private, the well-being check-in could be filled in at home, during a teacher's own private time, without the pressures of nearby colleagues. The most important benefits of regular check-ins are to give everybody the opportunity to share, and to normalise getting support.

Let's try to always remind ourselves and the people around us that it's okay not to be okay.