HR and Staff Wellbeing

The Cost of Caring – Supporting the Mental Health of Staff

Vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are increasing in teachers as many of the children they work with are exposed to traumatic experiences. Dr Asha Patel and Sal McKeown explore how schools can support the mental health of their teachers as a way of benefitting their students.
Child being comforted by a teacher

Teaching is often advertised as being one of the most rewarding careers. A recent Department of Education television advertisement is called ‘Every Lesson Shapes a Life’, showing a heart-warming picture of a young person developing through their school year and implying the profound impact teachers and schools have on young people’s lives.1 But, at whose cost is this? Or who pays the price? Educational staff at all levels, from teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors to teachers, senior managers and head teachers, often come face-to-face with the problems society prefers to forget. On a daily basis, staff are dealing with adversity, the impact of poverty, family breakdown and trauma. Exposure to these difficulties can leave people feeling exhausted and demoralised. Schools are gradually recognising that staff need to be in a mentally healthy place in order to have the capacity and capability to support their students.  

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