It’s no longer breaking news, but it’s still a crisis: Teacher mental health has been suffering for the past several years, and it’s not getting any better.
As we enter into the 2022-23 school year, districts need to place teacher mental health at the forefront of their priorities. Here’s everything you need to know.
The Ongoing Teacher Shortage
More and more teachers are leaving the profession, and with good reason. Teachers started leaving even before the pandemic. In 2020, teachers left the profession in record numbers — and in 2022, the situation hasn’t improved in most places.
Since there’s no national database that is tracking the teacher shortage, it’s hard to say exactly how many school districts in the country are experiencing this issue. In Illinois, around 88% of the state’s school districts reported that they’re having trouble with teacher shortages. In Houston, Texas, the main districts have up to 1000 teaching positions that have remained unfilled.
The Washington Post reports that districts are facing teacher shortages ranging from the hundreds to the thousands. Some districts across the country are even asking college teachers, and veterans with no teaching experience, to step in to fill gaps.
Not every district is having this problem, and the teacher-hire rate depends greatly on location and salary. But, in general, teacher shortages are a problem that the country needs to address urgently.
High Teacher Burnout Rates
Teacher shortage a problem for a society, but that isn’t the only reason we need to take care of teacher mental health. The teachers who are willing to stay in the profession are experiencing dangerously high levels of stress and burnout.
In one 2022 survey, over 90% of teachers reported that burnout is a serious problem in their profession. And over half of the teachers surveyed said they were considering leaving the profession in the near future, which is a good indication of burnout.
Teaching was always one of the world’s most stressful occupations, but teaching during a global pandemic made it even more difficult. These challenges are having negative impacts on teacher mental health. A 2021 RAND survey found that teachers are a whopping 3 times more likely to report symptoms of depression than adults in other professions.
Factors Affecting Teacher Mental Health
Anyone can be affected by mental health issues like depression, and there’s no single cause that leads to these conditions.
However, there are several factors that can make it more likely that someone is affected by mental health issues — and teachers, by the nature of their profession, experience many of them.
Some of the issues that affect teacher mental health include:
- Financial worries due to low pay
- Stress due to excessive working hours and lack of resources
- Difficult relationships in the workplace due to district politics
- Empathic distress, especially when working with students who have experienced trauma
- Struggling personal relationships due to too many working hours
- Sleep disturbances due to stress
- Lack of in-school mental health support
The stress of teaching during a pandemic undoubtedly contributed to the worsening of teacher mental health. But many of these factors have been relevant long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. Especially for teachers who are already genetically vulnerable to mental health challenges, these very real issues could lead to depression and other conditions.
The Benefits of a Teacher Mental Health Program
There are so many things about the teaching profession, like low salary, that need to be addressed directly on a societal level. But there are other things schools can do to start addressing teacher mental health as well, such as implementing a teacher mental health program.
A teacher mental health program can provide teachers with essential services, like therapy, to support their mental and emotional well-being. A program like this can also equip teachers with life skills, like mindfulness, that they can use to take care of their own mental health.
One review found that employee wellness programs (across all occupations, not just teaching) were linked with higher job satisfaction. Unfortunately, teacher wellness and mental health programs haven’t yet been widely implemented or studied. We have a lot of expanding to do in this area.
Calm Classroom is a school-based mindfulness program that has decades of experience in bringing mindfulness-based wellness practices to school districts across the U.S. Although students undoubtedly benefit from our programs, teachers do too — over 80% say that they, themselves, feel less anxious and stressed after implementing Calm Classroom at their school.
To learn more about how Calm Classroom can support teacher mental health in your district, get in touch with us today.