May 23, 2024

In the whirlwind of education reform, curriculum updates and student assessments, the wellbeing of educators on the frontlines of K-12 schools can be overlooked. But the mental health of teachers and educational staff is critical for their personal welfare — and the success of the educational system.

More schools are recognizing that educators’ mental health is critical to their long-term goals. Beyond basic job functions like lesson planning and grading, educators are the foundation of a learning environment. They wear countless hats — role models, mentors, caregivers and cheerleaders. But as they support the growth and wellbeing of students, their own mental health needs often take the backseat.

Supporting teachers’ mental health needs is a strategic investment in educational institutions. So where can K-12 schools start?

The Current State of Teachers’ Mental Health

The best place might be the current state: educator burnout has become a pervasive issue. Teachers face long hours, heavy workloads and the emotional toll of supporting diverse student populations. In fact, teachers report worse well-being than the general population.

The 2023 State of the American Teacher Survey identified that teachers’ primary stressors were managing student behavior, supporting students’ academic learning and administrative work (e.g., paperwork and teacher evaluations). This stress on the job is linked to absenteeism, changing jobs and intentions to leave the profession altogether.

Is there an access to care problem? Survey says maybe. Seventy-five percent of teachers in the survey reported having access to at least one well-being or mental health support resource through their employer, health insurance or professional association. The most common: mental health care services, employee assistance programs (EAPs) and wellness activities. However, 46% of teachers responded that the mental health and well-being support available to them was inadequate.

Assessing Impact

Failing to meet teachers’ mental health needs can have serious impact. Burnout among educators leads to decreased job satisfaction, reduced classroom effectiveness and high turnover rates. Untreated mental health issues among educators can trickle down to students, impacting their learning experiences and overall well-being.

For example, studies indicate that when educators are stressed, the quality of their teaching and classroom management decreases. It is no surprise that students tend to be more stressed when their teachers are which, in turn, can hinder their academic performance and classroom engagement.

Considerations for K-12 Schools

It is mission critical to combat teacher burnout and stress. K-12 schools can consider the following strategies to make a difference in educators’ mental health:

Offer comprehensive mental health benefit

Robust mental health benefits cover therapy, counseling and psychiatric services. Through an EAP employees can access services or referrals to address personal problems. Accessible and affordable mental health care can encourage educators to seek help when needed — preventing issues from escalating.

Implement wellness programs

Wellness initiatives can help promote physical activity, mindfulness and work-life balance. These are all critical components of self-care. Remember – the best wellness programming directly addresses the needs and wants of employees. Work with your broker’s population health team to build a program that encourages maximum participation.

Provide professional development opportunities

Professional development can go beyond technical training. K-12 schools can invest in training programs that focus on stress management, resilience-building and mental health awareness. Courses like these can equip educators with the coping strategies and resources they need to navigate challenges.

The Resource Challenge

Prioritizing teachers’ mental health may be a strategic investment for K-12 schools, but a common question is — how do we fund it? The resources of schools are already stretched thin. For many organizations, additional mental health and wellness resources just aren’t in the budget.

We recognize that schools face unique funding and resource allocation challenges, and we have built a team that can help. We have helped many K-12 organizations drive significant savings on health care costs that they could use to build a health reserve and reinvest in their teachers. If you want to learn more, check out this school case study, or click below to reach out to us.


Some content courtesy of our partners at Zywave.

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