District and school leaders have been devoting their attention to student mental health in recent years due to increasing trends of depression and anxiety among teens. These leaders are understandably more concerned now than ever as the pandemic is contributing to higher levels of stress among students. However, it is not just children who are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 crisis: according to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, 80% of teachers report feeling anxious, worried, exhausted, or depressed since the beginning of the pandemic.
To ensure that teachers and staff can effectively care for students during this difficult time, school districts must also address the needs of their staff by providing ongoing, thoughtfully structured supports.
Centralize your district’s communication strategy and resources for COVID-19
By being transparent about the stressful realities of the COVID-19 crisis, districts can reduce the belief among teachers that they must deal with these challenges on their own. Providing clear, regular communication from district leadership, and creating a webpage devoted to COVID-19 updates and resources allows teachers and staff to all be on the same page.
Recognize the long-standing stigma surrounding mental health among teachers
Not only should COVID-19 communication be clear and transparent for district employees, but mental health supports should also be made available. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers had been pushed to the limits, with rates of burnout hovering between 19-30% over their first five years of teaching. Yet too few teachers seek out the help they need to support their mental health and wellness, with many believing that the stress they experience is simply part of the demands of the job. Offering resources such as online support groups and reminding teachers about existing mental health benefits can serve to normalize the need to seek help for those would otherwise suffer in silence.
Change your current policies to ease the effects of COVID-19 on district employees
Finally, districts need to update their policies to accommodate the dramatic changes brought about by the pandemic. Whether it is adjusting your district’s performance evaluation policies, leave policies, or health care benefits, it is essential that districts recognize that employees will have different needs during the crisis, and make changes where possible.
Utilize the COVID-19 Employee Mental Health Audit and Resource Guide to support these efforts
Use EAB’s COVID-19 Employee Mental Health Audit and Resource Guide to design, evaluate, and improve three key pillars of a culture of access in your district:
- Build a communication strategy that is transparent, ongoing, and multi-channel to acknowledge the impacts of COVID-19 and alleviate anxiety and stress for teachers and staff
- Provide a variety of mental health and well-being supports for teachers and staff, including wellness emails, social media blasts, and virtual support groups and events
- Adjust administrative polices including performance evaluations, flex and leave time, and your health care benefits to structurally support faculty and staff through COVID-19