Why Teachers Need Mental Health and Wellbeing Training

Author: Bethany Spencer

Posted: 22 May 2019

Estimated time to read: 5 mins

Over the years, the role of the teacher has transformed both mentally and practically. Today, teachers are expected to do so much more than just teach - their hours stretch long past the usual working day and into the night where they’re expected to mark, monitor and catch up on admin.

Not to mention that during their day-to-day lessons they don’t merely teach their students, but mentor, inspire, care for and support their students in more ways than most realise.

1 in 10 students in every classroom suffer from a diagnosable mental health issue

Some may argue that this has always been the role of a teacher and these responsibilities are implied by the very title of the occupation, and instead, what has changed is how people perceive the job.

Today, people are aware of the full scope of responsibilities that teachers have due to increased awareness regarding student wellbeing, teacher wellbeing and workload, all of which are interlinked. Try as we might, we can’t isolate these issues but we can take steps to help improve factors affecting them such as providing teachers with proper training so they are capable of supporting student wellbeing.

At present, our students' mental health is poor, with 1 in 10 students in every classroom suffering from a diagnosable mental health issue. To help show the scale of the issues affecting wellbeing we’ve created an infographic which you can download here:The State of Student WellbeingMore young people today are suffering from mental health issues than ever before, which means a higher number of teachers are directly exposed to students suffering from poor wellbeing and mental health issues in their classroom.

However, despite this, no training is provided to NQTs surrounding emotional wellbeing or mental health. Nor is there any mandatory training on mental health awareness required to be taken by schools as part of their CPD quota - training that would be beneficial for both students and teachers.

supporting teachers with mental health training

The reason for lack of training on mental health and how to support student wellbeing is not due to lack of interest from teachers. In fact, teachers are vocal about their desire for better training in this area:

  • 71% of teachers said they lack the training to help them address mental health concerns with pupils.
  • 92% of teachers want mental health training to be embedded in the teacher training curriculum.
  • When we asked our email respondents ‘Do you feel as though you have sufficient training to provide support to students who are suffering from poor mental wellbeing?’, over half (55%) of respondents answered ‘Not at all’.

If teachers are provided with adequate training on how to identify, support, and refer students who are suffering from mental health issues, they become a part of a student support network and can play a pivotal role in ensuring students receive the help they need.

An experiment that saw teachers trained in mental health first aid who were then able to provide a confidential support service for their colleagues, found that the wellbeing of teachers and students improved as a result of this. All stakeholders reacted positively to the support provided to them.

Looking after yourself and realising the power of positive wellbeing is training within itself

In fact, despite teachers being the recipient of the confidential support service, students too benefitted from their improved wellbeing; when student wellbeing was compared to schools who didn’t receive mental health first aid it was found that students had much better wellbeing and less mental health issues.

An experiment conducted by the University of Bristol, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine & University College London sought to discover what impact would be of teachers receiving training in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). A small number of staff were trained in MHFA and were then able to provide their colleagues with a confidential peer support service. The wider staff body were also trained in detecting signs of distress and how to seek help.

Staff welcomed the training provided and reacted positively to the peer support groups and although students were not the recipients of the support service after its introduction to school they had better wellbeing and lower mental health issues when compared to schools that didn’t receive MHFA training. This shows the power of knowledge and the influence teachers, their understanding of mental health and their own wellbeing can have on students.

positive student wellbeing

Providing school staff with training staff on mental wellbeing is paramount to ensuring not only teachers’ own mental health and their ability to provide support for students suffering, but in also identifying the warning signs of poor mental wellbeing in others. As mental health training is not mandatory at the moment, the training staff receive on this subject matter is down to the individual school. There are small steps that can be taken to start ensuring the proper training is provided such as:

  • Making mental health training mandatory in your CPD quota
  • Starting your own support/focus groups where staff can discuss mental health and share best practice amongst colleagues
  • Regardless of your position in school, communicate your want for and the need for training
  • Make time for your own wellbeing  - looking after yourself and realising the power of positive wellbeing is training within itself
  • Introduce a wellbeing lead to your school who is educated in mental health and wellbeing who can offer guidance for all
  • Implement a wellbeing policy which guides all stakeholders on the importance of wellbeing and directs them where to receive support should they need it

Whatever you do, make sure you’re pushing for the training you need that will help your students, and remember - starting small is better than not starting at all. Find out more about how you can support your students’ wellbeing with our complete Student Wellbeing Toolkit:Supporting Student Wellbeing in Schools