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World Mental Heath Day is a cause for pride

09/10/17

Lyn wrote this personal entry about World Mental Health Day from her own perspective of a supply teacher.

When I started teaching many years ago, the teachers' and students' mental health was a taboo subject. I had a colleague who started her probationary year with me at an inner city secondary modern school and found herself totally unable to cope. There were whispers and well-meaning older colleagues tried to give advice but she spiralled downwards and disappeared. When I was a child, my own mother had spent some time in a 'mental hospital' and it was a matter of great shame that was never talked about in the family. As for students having mental health issues, it never occurred to us. So many people suffering in secret.

The fact that we can now mark a World Mental Health Day shows what progress we have made in recent years. People can confess to being depressed or anxious without fear of retribution or condemnation. I do appreciate that inevitably in today's society some prejudice still exists against certain forms of mental illnesses but it is nothing compared to the past.

It is therefore so disappointing that this change in attitudes has not been accompanied by a proportionate growth in support services. In media, I constantly hear about high-profile cases where people have been let down by an overburdened NHS. I also experience this as a supply teacher on daily basis. I am frequently called into cover for a teacher who, according to what I hear in the staff room, is having trouble coping. Schools do what they can but team-teaching, which would often be a constructive solution, is just not financially viable in today's climate. Even the level of counselling required - many hours - is not feasible. The same applies to students. We all know about the pressures of social media on young people these days. I come across bullying in many forms and, if I can, mention it to a tutor or head of year. But most of the time, I don't know who these people are. During break time, staff are so harassed, I simply do not want to add to their workload. Teachers are therefore extremely grateful for a student counsellor whom they can approach for advice on how to deal with vulnerable students.

                                                                                                                     

World Mental Health Day is a cause for pride but in education we still have a way to go.

 

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