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School staff wellbeing: key things to consider for 2021

“Wellbeing, mental health, and psychological safety are the core pre-conditions of learning, performance, healthy functioning, and contributing.” This sentence is as true for adults as it is for children.

The more we define these terms the more we build a national language that is consistent and of quality.

What is wellbeing and self-care for school staff?

Wellbeing and self-care refers to strategies and activities that can be undertaken with the intention of strengthening energy, balance, calm and coping. Wellbeing and self-care activities should be done to maintain good health during “normal” periods and should also be done during periods of stress or turbulence to restore wellbeing, enhance resilience, restore balance, reduce stress and improve your coping ability.

Why is resilience important?

Put simply, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, periods of strain, stress or toughness. It’s the capacity to find happiness, optimism and success after something difficult, stressful or overwhelming has happened. When working in a profession where relationships and human behaviour are central, resilience is critical.

What is cumulative or accumulated impact on school staff?

Cumulative harm or impacts can occur when an individual or team has experienced multiple events or episodes of stress, strain and complexity.

This may be experienced after a number of accumulated incidents where the individual or team has not been able to have the space or time to restore balance, and maintain good coping strategies.

This often involves leading through experiences of high adrenaline and through prolonged stress. This results in diminished stability, wellbeing, coping and performance. The most extreme effects can be burnout, compassion fatigue, or vicarious trauma.

What is mental health literacy for school staff?

To perform as a high functioning team of educators, it is critical to continue to develop your knowledge and understanding of human function and behaviour. This includes knowledge, skills, awareness, understanding and language of mental health and wellbeing. It develops a leader’s sense of self-care, resilience, relationships, emotions, moods and neurological processes.

Why is it critical to teach school staff help-seeking behaviours?

Some of us don’t naturally lean into help-seeking so it must be explicitly talked about, taught, role modelled and practised. Many of us grew up in an era where seeking help and receiving help were signs of vulnerability and weakness.

Help-seeking is a collective term for the understanding and implementing of strategies to help when you or someone else is struggling. This means acknowledging that you are overwhelmed and you require assistance to support your mental health and wellbeing, reduce stress, distress, trauma, grief, loss and mental health concerns.

What is early intervention?

This is identifying and providing effective early support to school leaders who are verging on being at risk and are on the verge of experiencing impact on mental health and wellbeing and impact on functioning.

Often this requires some type of action or strategy to assist the individual or team back to good function. If early intervention occurs, it reduces longer term impacts, and helps reduce the need for more specialised intervention.

What is Be You?

Be You is a national framework and approach to mental health and wellbeing for every Australian school. headspace, Beyond blue, Early Childhood Australia are delivering Be You to every school and early child setting in Australia. This is being done in partnership with all state and territory departments and education sectors in the country.

For schools wanting to get planning on all things wellbeing and mental health for 2021, contact your Be You Team below.

For schools experiencing suicide risk including suicide attempts, please also contact your state and territory Be You Team below.

Be You New South Wales & ACT 0475 838 049
Be You Northern Territory 0447 926 799
Be You Queensland 0455 079 803
Be You South Australia 0448 381 280
Be You Tasmania 0448 613 934
Be You Victoria 0458 559 736
Be You Western Australia 0427 128 271

Kristen Douglas is the Head of headspace in Schools, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation. Her focus is the synergy between education and mental health, combining her experience as an educator and principal, with her passion and experience in education and mental health and wellbeing.

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