Mumbai, 16 November, 2021– Teachers’ mental health issues are crucial because they not only have a detrimental influence on teachers themselves but also directly affect classroom outcomes. To focus on the importance of raising awareness of mental health and early intervention among teachers, Poddar Foundation conducted a mental health session for teachers of St. Andrew’s School at Panvel, Maharashtra recently. The initiative was aimed to empower teachers to deal with stress, emotional upheaval and forge better teacher-student and peer relationships.
The session started with some icebreaking activities so that participants felt comfortable in sharing their feelings and seek help. In the sessions, various aspects of mental health issues were discussed including mental health problems like depression, anxiety and stress. Since learning disabilities are often discovered in school because of problems with academic work, the session also involved detailed discussions on issues like Dyscalculia, ADHD and more.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee of Poddar Foundation said “A teacher’s mental health is one of the biggest factors in a students’ academic growth, as the mental health of teachers and students are interconnected, thus directly affecting their learning and outcomes. While providing quality education is essential, it is also essential that teachers develop a strong emotional bond with their students. Only when a teacher knows how to support their own mental wellbeing, will they be able to provide a supportive learning environment. The burnout feeling among teachers, which is a low and stressed state of the mind, could be contagious. It affects not only educators but also the students with whom these educators interact. Studies indicate that nearly 10 per cent of children aged 5-16 years already suffer from some form of clinically diagnosable mental health issues. The idea behind the program was to not only to ease the stress and burnout of teachers, but also, to help students learn better. The training teachers receive is mostly about how to teach content, but there is hardly any training or counselling for their mental health. Apart from a few organisations that are spreading awareness about students’ mental health, nothing is done at the school level.”
As part of the mental health session, coping skills were also discussed and how teachers can support their students and themselves, and relevant resources were provided to the teachers. Some of the teachers also shared experiences of children in their class having various issues. They also spoke about how they are trying to understand and help the children and mentioned that such sessions will help them more in dealing with children who have different mental health issues.
“A teacher constantly tries to do his/her best to bring out the best in their students, all day long. Beyond that, making rigorous lesson plans, checking assessments, collecting resources, following best practices, communicating with parents, and taking care of their students’ overall development are all a part of a teacher’s everyday routine. No wonder they fall prey to stress, burnout and anxiety. Early intervention is important when it comes to any psychological, behavioural, or common and severe mental health disorders. School-based interventions can reduce risk factors to promote the mental health and well-being of teachers, children and adolescents. School-based mental health programs serve as inevitable tools which promote positive mental health and prevent mental illnesses” said Neha S Shah, Head Projects at Poddar Foundation.
The mental health session at St. Andrew’s School was much appreciated by the 18 teachers who participated in the program. They felt that such awareness programmes about common mental health issues can drastically improve the health outcomes of teachers as well as students, and help reduce anxiety and depression. By making small positive adjustments, over the long term, meaningful change can occur for teachers, students, and school leaders.
About Poddar Foundation: Poddar Foundation is a registered Trust has been working in the field of mental health awareness since 2016. Poddar Foundation is devoted in creating critical awareness on the looming mental health crisis in India. Since 2016, Poddar Foundation conducts its offline and online activities through the project ‘Silence Todo’, which works to break the stigma, shame and silence around mental health. Poddar Foundation works with schools, teachers, government organizations, gram panchayats, social workers, anganwadis and communities in order to spread awareness and create a support network for the people. Poddar Foundation has also created a digital repository of knowledge and support on online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. in order to reach a higher number of people with key awareness issues.