Support Staff Well-Being
What to Know
Teachers and principals are more likely than other workers to report burnout and symptoms of depression. They are also less likely to say that they feel resilient (that they can “bounce back” when bad things happen). Educators of color are more likely than White educators to experience symptoms of depression. When teachers have poor mental health, schools have lower-quality learning environments and students do not do as well in school. Putting school-based programs in place that support the mental health of teachers and staff can improve school climate and promote student mental health and success.
What Can Schools Do?
Offer Mindfulness-Based Training Programs
Just like mindfulness helps students, it can also help teachers. Teachers learn skills to manage the demands of teaching and reduce the physical and mental effects of stress. Mindfulness programs for teachers and staff are usually group-based and can fit into different professional development schedules. In these programs, teachers learn to recognize and understand their own emotions and emotional patterns. Then they use mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises to regulate their emotions.
Mindfulness-based training programs are associated with improved well-being for teachers and school staff. They can also decrease stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
Provide Therapeutic Resources
Leaders can support staff’s mental health by providing resources that guide teachers and staff through acceptance and commitment therapy approaches. Self-help workbooks are a cost-effective option for schools. Similar to approaches that promote acceptance and commitment to change with students, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) self-help workbooks help teachers accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment and take actions in line with their values.
Providing resources for acceptance and commitment therapy can decrease stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression for teachers and school staff.
Focus on Equity
Strategies that reduce racial discrimination and improve inclusivity among school staff are critical for promoting staff wellness. Example strategies include:
- Offering culturally relevant mental health and well-being supports that staff can access.
- Creating supportive environments within schools that include safe spaces for staff (e.g., affinity groups) and activities that provide social support and promote resilience.
Leaders can support staff well-being by:
- Asking staff how school practices and policies could be improved to reduce their stress.
- Building opportunities to practice mindfulness skills into existing routines.
- Talking to school staff about how to access mental health supports.
- Engaging with the community and with parent-teacher organizations to decide on ways groups can work together to support teachers and school staff.
- If the school district can support it, asking school or district mental health and wellness teams to offer support to teachers as well. For example, teams could provide training during professional development days or create a referral list of mental health providers in the community.
Organizational changes can help reduce stress and create consistent opportunities for school staff to engage in positive coping. For additional information and resources, see Tips for Promoting School Employee Wellness.