Our latest guest blog comes from Julian Stanley, CEO of the Education Support Partnership. He is calling for teachers to ask for help sooner as Mental Health Awareness week begins with a focus on stress this year…
Few would be surprised to hear during Mental Health Awareness week that teaching can be stressful! But how can teachers cope with the increasing stress and demands of their job while making sure they take good care of their students?
Our helpline has been extremely busy this last year. We’ve seen the number of teachers calling our counsellors, who provide emotional support to education staff, rise by 35% in the past 12 months. I am pleased so many teachers now know about the services we offer but I would like the number of callers to rise again this year because it means our message is getting through that it’s okay to ask for help and that help is out there. But what I would really like is for teachers and teaching staff to call us preferably before they reach a point of crisis. It’s much easier to offer help before things get to a head.
Here at the Education Support Partnership we regard asking for help as a strength, not a weakness. And what we’re hearing from people who call our helpline is that this message is finally getting across to many people in distress. If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t hesitate to ask for crutches while your leg healed. It’s the same with mental health needs. But it’s much harder for many people to ask for help because you can’t see the damage. However, as anyone who’s ever suffered from severe stress will know, that doesn’t mean the damage isn’t there.
If teachers don’t access help before they hit a crisis point there is a risk matters may escalate. One caller to our helpline, Victoria, a secondary school teacher, told us: “I became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of a class. I stepped into my classroom and instantly knew I couldn’t be there… I just broke down in tears. I couldn’t explain it.”
This backs up what counsellors hear on our helpline at the Education Support Partnership. Stress is growing for teachers as the job becomes more time consuming and more demands are made upon them. Many teachers feel stressed beyond the point they can cope.
However, I want the message to go out that it’s okay to say, “I can’t cope!” We’ve probably all felt like that at some point in our lives. Where we’ve needed to ask for help or perhaps a short timeout while we take time to recover and repair. Much as you would for a broken leg or a bad bout of ‘flu.
If you do call our helpline it’s free, confidential and anonymous. And we aren’t just there for teachers, teaching assistants and lecturers. We offer help to anyone who works in education or has ever worked in education. The stresses and strains are felt by support and services staff as well as teachers. Our counsellors are not only highly trained and experienced, they specialise in education. They understand the very specific needs and issues which come up for people who work in education.
I hope this Mental Health Awareness week encourages more people to reach out and ask for help if they need it. You are not alone. There is help out there. Do please access it if you’re finding it hard to bear at the moment. And please tell your colleagues about our services at the Education Support Partnership.
For help or advice on any issue facing those working in education, contact the Education Support Partnership’s free 24-hour helpline on 08000 562 561 or visit www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk