#28daysofwriting Day 6: How’s Your Mental Health? Be kind to yourself and others

Last night on Twitter the rotationally curated account @EduTweetOz currently hosted by @ScientistMags touched on the little talked about mental health of teachers. Mags bravely detailed her struggles with her mental health as a first year out teacher and the death of her grandfather. She felt she had not received adequate help from her school. Luckily she had family and friends to support her.

Unfortunately, society’s attitude to mental health issues can be flippant or negative. Particularly by those who have never been touched by the black dog of depression. I was raised in one of these families and have come to realise that this is the exception rather than the rule. My mum still thinks a good nights sleep and a brisk walk in the sunshine is all you need. With a psychologist and a science teacher as daughters, we have tried to address her misconceptions, but still they persist. I think part of the problem is it is seen as a weakness so people keep their struggles private. They do not want to admit that they are suffering from a mental health condition.

I have not been clinically depressed. I can only imagine what it is like. I have come close. I do see a psychologist (not my sister) because my husband has a degenerative neurological genetic disease. I’m sure if I didn’t I would have suffered a break down. If you aren’t coping, I highly recommend getting help early.

My husband has suffered from depression. He has had suicidal ideations. It was difficult to be a bystander. He got help, took medication but as part of his disease he still struggles. He has been proactive and very vocal. He went on the Black Dog Ride to Alice Springs. Here’s his blog. Or read the article. This was part of his recovery but he has never been back to work as a teacher. Not that depression precludes you from teaching.

You need to look after your mental and physical health to be an effective teacher. You need to get help. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a workplace injury like any physical injury inflicted. We are placed in highly stressful situations and exposed to every human frailty and horror. As a teacher you are entitled to support. Each Australian state should have an Employees Assistance Program you can access for free. In Australia you can get a Mental Health Care Plan from your GP so Medicare contributes to the cost of seeing a psychologist.

It is important to get help early. It is equally important to support our colleagues who are suffering.

To quote my only displayed classroom rule BE KIND TO YOURSELF AND OTHERS.

Need help?
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
For NSW DEC teachers:
http://www.teach.nsw.edu.au/documents/eapfacts.pdf

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