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Carmel Browne, INTO Equality Committee INTO Equality Conference 2013 Mental Health and Teaching.

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Presentation on theme: "Carmel Browne, INTO Equality Committee INTO Equality Conference 2013 Mental Health and Teaching."— Presentation transcript:

1 Carmel Browne, INTO Equality Committee INTO Equality Conference 2013 Mental Health and Teaching

2 Mental Health Research Aims and Objectives Aim: To examine the nature of personal experiences of primary school teachers with mental health difficulties. Subsidiary Objectives: To ascertain The perceived impact mental health difficulties have had on teachers’ professional lives In what ways teachers with a mental health difficulty can be reasonably accommodated in the workplace Ways in which we can create awareness of mental health difficulties in teaching.

3 How teachers became aware they had a mental health difficulty “I just stopped sleeping, that is just what happens to me I just completely don’t sleep… a huge thing was tiredness” “I was so tired and so irritable, I was getting less and less done, I had no energy. There was an irritability in my stomach there was something wrong… it was kind of a heavy feeling” “I got night time panic attacks… At the start there were mornings when I was driving to school when I had panic attacks. I had to pull over onto the hard shoulder and I had to breathe and talk to myself. I thought to myself if I can only get to school, if I can get through the door, if I can start teaching I will be alright”

4 How teachers became aware they had a mental health difficulty “Everything was an ordeal, I couldn’t make decisions. It would take me half an hour to decide what clothes to wear… when I went to a shop I couldn’t think what I wanted to buy” “I started to definitely feel down, it was kind of coloured with guilt feelings, negative feelings. I felt I was no good, that I couldn’t do the job” “Before I was in charge of everything in my life, now I feel physically drained, I can’t make decisions or plan to do anything. I am not comfortable with it on a daily basis but I go with the flow because I don’t seem able to hold the responsibility that I held before.”

5 Perceived Work Related Triggers “The first time anxiety came was when I had a big change… When I was going back from job sharing to full time teaching, it was going to be a huge jump to go back into the classroom because when you are out of the classroom like that for a while it is difficult because you feel as if you are not going to be able to go back in and I let that feeling take over and that is what happened” “It was gradually creeping up on me… I had been doing learning support for 13 years and then I was put back in the classroom, that was a huge shock, I wasn’t able to cope. The job contributed to my depression, I was back in the classroom in a position I was not familiar with after 13 years out and then there was the new curriculum”

6 General Impact on working Lives “I kept thinking I was useless, I convinced myself that I was no good at teaching… I thought I just can’t go in and stand in front of a class” “Before, I was in charge in the classroom… I was driven, everything was done and it was done right because I was doing it myself… then my confidence went. It hit me like a bolt… one day the Learning Support teacher came into the class and I stood up and said ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and I walked out, everything was getting to me, I had no confidence” “I compared myself with everybody else and felt that I was failing all the time, I felt that I was no good, that I couldn’t do the job…” “I couldn’t concentrate so it was very hard to do a lesson with the kids… sometimes if I was doing a long passage I wouldn’t be able to take it in myself…”

7 Response of Principal “My principal has been fantastic, really fantastic, she has been really supportive. She really helped me manage my difficulty and not be overwhelmed by it” “The principal was great, she came to the house… she told me what my entitlements were ” “Well the Principal teacher knew I wasn’t coping but didn’t do anything to help… she never asked how I was getting on in class… there was a lot of things going on and the principal’s attitude didn’t help matters… it exacerbated them really ” “My principal knew I wasn’t coping but didn’t do anything to help. She tried to understand, but generally her feeling was ‘I don’t know what this is all about so get on with it… ‘pull yourself together and get on with the job’..”

8 Provision of Reasonable Accommodation “The principal told me to ‘come in as often as you want’ and I did, I came into the classroom, she supported that, I was teaching lots even though I wasn’t officially back and I was reconnecting with the class, I was facilitated that way” “Take as much time off as you need… You don’t have to go back to the same class, you could think about resource teaching… I went into resource when I went back… it did make it easier to go back and I’ve been fine since” “It was agreed that when I returned I would job share. This has really helped me manage my difficulty especially with my low energy levels”

9 Perspectives on treatments received “First of all I’d say ‘Deal with it’. Go and get help and deal with it. Talk to a friend about it… If you don’t talk about it [stress and anxiety] it will become more difficult for yourself” “Get help as soon as possible… I was delighted when he [the doctor] put a name on it, I thought ‘This is amazing, he knows what is wrong with me’. That was such a relief, it was like a lifeline” “I needed the support of medication… but the psychiatrist encouraged me to try other therapies as well” “In an hour’s CBT you looked at your personality, at the circle of anxiety and what was triggering it … I had to keep a diary and look for positives every day. I found it worked very well for me… it was a holistic way of looking at things”

10 Self Help “Self help is really important, you have to do that, look after yourself, have a bit of fun, go shopping or out with your friends” “I know now it is quite important for me to give myself time to do things, just for me, to take time for meditative moments … it might be yoga, exercise, art or just being mindful of ‘you’ time. Mindfulness isn’t about meditation, it’s about being aware at every moment of where you are at and looking after yourself … sometimes you have to be selfish to look after yourself” “We often spend time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. If we do that there is no happiness in the now. It is important to try and live in the now and focus on good stuff, try not to worry about what’s happened or what might happen”

11 Perceived stigma often associated with mental health difficulties “I didn’t want anybody to know…I was depressed so I had to keep a very low profile. There is a stigma around it [depression] so I had to pretend I had a bad back… I was so busy keeping the black lie going that it was an extra burden all the time having to go around pretending I had a bad back”. “I didn’t want anybody to know what was wrong with me. The whole thing was kept secret, I was hiding it because I was afraid people would think I was mad”. “I would have preferred even to this day if nobody knew”

12 Teaching and mental health difficulty “For me I would be concerned about what parents might think of me... if they thought the reason I was out was because of anxiety and depression, they would not want their children to be in my class” “I feel there is a stigma attached. It is not helped by the fact that the image of a person who is a teacher out there is a person who is reliable and solid and in control and the image of somebody with mental health difficulties is somebody who is completely unreliable and not to be trusted…”

13 Two way process “There is a two way process there and it is not fair to expect colleagues to be empathetic unless you are actually prepared to be open about it at the same time... I think that unless you have had mental illness, it is very difficult to understand” “Stigma, the terrible thing about it is, people who have been through the system would create their own stigma by not saying it…. by hiding it”

14 Raising Awareness “There should be some education for all staff on mental health. They should be aware of symptoms… It would be helpful if teachers could understand the condition” “I think in every school there should be in-service on mental health.. the common difficulties, the signs to look out for…” “We can raise awareness by educating people on the signs and symptoms to look out for… colleagues isolating themselves not going to the staffroom at breaks…look for little things like people stepping back from responsibility, being irritable, acting out of character”

15 It’s good to talk… “When I look back on it [my depression] if I had somebody to talk with, it could have been diffused straight away before it [stress] got to the point that I became anxious and depressed. If you are able to talk about it, it’s much better than hiding it. Your depression and anxiety can get much worse if you are hiding away. Now I think that most people are much more understanding of depression than you think, it is quite common most people have someone in their family or a close friend who has depression” “Talking has helped because I have been able to admit to myself how bad I felt… so it’s good to talk”

16 It’s good to talk… “Talking about it definitely helps especially if there is a colleague to talk to, often we are all going through the same thing…they will be able to relieve the situation for you much quicker than somebody outside of the school because they will understand what you are talking about. I know it can be difficult when you are in that situation you are quite paranoid and it is very difficult to take the first step and talk to somebody but it is still worth it if you can just take that little step and talk to somebody” “That is the first thing I’d advise - talk about it, I think mostly people are very good about it, there are very few people who are going to be making you feel awkward… Once I was able to talk about it my self esteem rose and I felt more grounded… I felt that what I was going through was normal” first thing I’d advise - talk about it, I think mostly people are very good about it, there are very few

17 Empowerment “The triggers come from a lot of places, you have to look at your whole life but the stress in school is a big issue. I was glad to get the opportunity to talk about it [depression]. Maybe it will help someone else … the main thing is that you have to learn to forget about it [school] go home and have some chill out time for yourself” “I may be the person that got the depression but there are a lot of people around me suffering from stress and anxiety and they are very close… they just haven’t tipped over yet. It’s great to get the chance to talk about it. We can all learn from looking at ourselves”

18 Possible Supports There should be a more collaborative approach to planning There is a need for more ongoing professional development for teachers in newer subject areas e.g. science, ICT Break times should be sacred, a time to relax – not an opportunity for mini staff meetings Colleagues and staff should be aware that a teacher working in a prefab away from the main building could feel isolated

19 Possible Supports There could be greater consideration given to allocation of classes in some cases All staff especially principals should receive specialist training in the area of mental health difficulties in particular signs and symptoms to watch out for Mindfulness courses be made available for teachers

20 Possible Supports A successful return to work for a person suffering a mental health difficulty can be facilitated by a flexible approach to staffing in schools e.g., Providing the opportunity to job share or work as part of a resource team The possibility of a return to work on a part time basis (partial resumption of duties) should be further considered and explored The INTO should set up a support group.

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