School leadership: Promoting staff mental health

School leadership: Promoting staff mental health

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

School staff often juggle multiple complex tasks and demands. Therefore, a focus on staff mental health and wellbeing has become an increasing priority in the education sector.

Taking care of staff helps them to perform to the best of their ability. It ensures they are better able to support their students.

Why is staff mental health important?

Workloads, deadlines, challenging behaviours, let alone a global pandemic, can have a significant impact on the mental health of school staff. This may also affect their ability to manage during critical moments of stress or strain in the classroom.

Staff who have good mental health are more likely to have the necessary resources to be able to respond to and manage stressful episodes. Self-care within schools is not an indulgence. It is an essential component in the prevention of distress and burnout and a crucial part of our professional identities (Barnett, Baker, Elman and Schoener, 2007).

Jigsaw Schools Coordinator
I think self-care is so important as it's really the foundation for everything we do. It's what helps to keep us going from day-to-day especially when things get a bit hectic.

Supporting staff mental health and wellbeing

As a school principal/deputy principal there are a number of strategies you can consider to promote and support staff mental health and wellbeing.

Model good working practices and self-care

Encourage a work/life balance. This can include encouraging and taking regular breaks and finishing on time. Asking for support when needed and providing a dedicated space and time to connect with staff.

In developing a healthy school culture, it is vital that strategies to promote mental health are led by the principal and senior staff.

Communicate clearly with your staff

Particularly in relation to any changes that might be taking place as a result of the pandemic. In line with best practice, consult with staff about changes. Offer reassurance where possible.

Remember to feedback on the positives and things that are going well. A focus on strengths within the school can provide staff with a sense of support.

Person holding a bright red cup
Identify opportunities for staff to engage in capacity-building activities that support conversations about mental health.

Encourage a sense of community

This can be achieved by creating opportunities for staff to connect and engage with one another through non-work related activities.

Give school staff dedicated time and space to share their thoughts on self-care. How do they look after themselves?  This can help to develop a more inclusive culture, building a sense of belonging and connection.

Prioritise staff mental health and wellbeing

Reinforce this message through the Board of Management and Parent Association. Discuss a ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing. Ensure staff are aware of how the school and leadership team are supporting them.

Ongoing learning

Identify opportunities for staff to engage in capacity-building activities that support conversations about mental health. This helps to normalise the process of speaking about it.

Consider lunchtime seminars, online workshops, and in-service days to cover topics such as managing stress or understanding mental health. Provide opportunities for colleagues to debrief with each other on a regular basis about these activities.

For more information, download our Guidance document for school leaders.

You may also like