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batyr responds to the call of teacher mental wellbeing

August 5, 2019

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Over half of Australian teachers are experiencing anxiety and around one in five are living with depression, according to new research from Bond University.

A total of 166 Australian school teachers aged 22-65, flagged work environment, workload and finances as the most significant sources of stress.

With 18% of participants meeting criteria for moderate to severe depression, this puts depression amongst teachers at a higher rate than the national average of 10% (National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007).

batyr understands this challenge to improve positive outcomes for teachers’ mental health and our National Program Manager Stephanie Vasilou had the opportunity to sit down with teacher and freelance writer Polly Dunning to listen to her first-hand experience.

We loved one of Polly’s many suggestions which was for more schools to embrace teacher mental health committees.

Worryingly, around 17% of the survey participants were found to have an alcohol dependency, which is often used as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety.

Polly said that schools that have established committees have provided teachers with a platform to talk about their mental health and to take healthier preventative steps to manage it.

batyr’s focus will always be to engage, educate and empower young people to better understand their mental health and to reach out for support when they need it.

However, teacher burnout is associated with higher levels of cortisol (our stress hormone) in students, the Bond University study found.

Improving mental health outcomes for young people takes a whole community approach so we value feedback from teachers and recognise the important role that they play in the lives of young people.

batyr’s Teacher Professional Development workshops aim to turn the tide

Our [email protected] Teacher PD workshops provide a safe and open platform for teachers to gain a greater level of awareness of what mental ill-health is like for a student at their school and how they can provide support.

It better equips teachers in starting those conversations and how to provide support, with each program specifically tailored to the school type and the mental health trends being experienced.

However, we also educate teachers on how to identify their own support networks and services, whether they’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or more complex mental ill-health.

The Teacher PD workshop involves:

  • Educating teachers on how ‘take charge’ of their own mental health.
  • Identifying what the role of a teacher is and what isn’t.
  • Listening to the experience of a young person with mental ill-health and how their teacher made a lasting impact.
  • Getting a better understanding of the welfare and wellbeing processes within a school.
  • Learning about the mental health services available in the local area.

Teacher PD programs contribute to 2 hours of QTC registered PD in NSW, as per 4.4.2 and 4.1.2 from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

Delivering a positive impact to teachers

batyr has delivered a total of 20 Teacher PD programs across NSW, ACT, QLD and VIC since 2016, reaching over 1,763 teachers.

After each program, we ask teachers to rate on a scale from 1-10 the likelihood of them reaching out for help when they needed it.

The average help-seeking score after watching a program was 81%, compared to the national help-seeking average of 23% (National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007).

That’s because teachers simultaneously learn to model positive mental health strategies during the workshop.

St Peters Lutheran College school psychologist Matt O’Connor

A great example of the positive power of our workshops is St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane

We have run six professional development days at the school, which employs several hundred teachers.

St Peters school psychologist Matt O’Connor said the feedback from their teachers highlights the value they place on being provided with quality information and ideas for supporting mental health and wellbeing.

The workshops have made a significant impact in addressing this need, he said.

“The combination of an energetic presenter, quality and informative content, and the profound effect of someone with a lived-experience presenting, all combine to provide a really unique and beneficial program,” Matt said.

“One of the other important factors in a school of our size is ensuring that everyone has a consistent level of understanding around identifying and responding to the range of mental health experiences our students and teachers have.”

“In this way, the batyr teacher PD program does an excellent job of providing a common knowledge to our staff.”

“Some of the conversations initiated in the batyr Teacher PD’s have really helped to establish greater comfort and clarity for staff in understanding the range of options available to them for looking after their own mental health and also in how they support their students,” he said.

We always encourage feedback from teachers and parents in our efforts to continually improve our workshops and to ensure they are having the most effective impact.

Register your interest for a Teacher Professional Development program to be delivered at your school.

You can find more results from the survey on the Bond University website.