Pooky Ponders: How can we support school staff mental health? | Amy Sayer

Today’s question is “How can we support school staff mental health” and I’m in conversation with Amy Sayer

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Please note, the transcript is auto generated.

Amy Sayer: welcome to 

Pooky Knightsmith: pukey ponders, the podcast where I explore big questions with brilliant people. I’m picky Knight Smith. And I’m your host. Today’s question is how can we support school staff, mental health? And I’m in conversation with Amy. 

Amy Sayer: Sam,

maybe say, I have been teaching for 13 years now. Um, and I am a trained mental health first aid. And I have my first book, which is going to be released in December this year. Which is very exciting. Um, and we are 

Pooky Knightsmith: talking about the very each subject of your book, which is how can we support, uh, school staff and mental health.

So, first of all, like why does that matter? Why were you writing about 

Amy Sayer: that? Yeah. So, um, I’ve done the mental health first stayed of course, with, um, a group of my colleagues. And I think during that, it was a two day course, and it’s quite an intense course. Yeah. You know, different types of mental ill health and kind of how it’s portrayed in the media and how it’s gonna affect, um, the students that we’re teaching, but also kind of the staff that we are around on a daily basis and out of the grief of people that I’ve trained with.

Kind of every single one of them had a connection to mental health. Um, And they were quite happy to kind of share that and talk about it, but it also made me think, hang on, there is a massive gap in something going on, um, for school staff. So we spend a lot of time quite rightly, uh, thinking about, you know, how to make the curriculum, uh, right.

For students to be happy and resilient and develop positive mental health habits. But alongside that, there has to be some sort of staff strategy because otherwise, um, Inevitably, you’re going to get into the situation where staff are going to have to leave a job. They really like. Yeah. Because the structure of the scope or the kind of ethos about mental health just isn’t as it needs to be.

So kind of from that course, I started getting really interested in how kind of different schools has done things. And I’m really lucky that I work in a school that is fantastic and does everything it possibly can to help people, um, that are struggling with their mental health. Well, and the big buttons, I’ve got lots of colleagues that I’ve kind of trained with over the years.

I’ve done workshops with. Um, and that hasn’t been the case and they’ve had to jump from school to school, um, and people are just too scared to talk about it. Um, so the why behind it is activity. There’s a time now where teaching has got a recruitment crisis. Um, people aren’t staying in teaching. If they’ve got mental ill health, because the systems just aren’t there.

Um, and compared to other occupations, teaching is kind of the statistics behind it. Show that it’s got a lot more, um, work related, stress, depression, and anxiety. So something is going wrong in the system. Um, And it’s a real shame because people that re people don’t go into teaching just for the holidays or because it’s fun and it’s fun sometimes most of the time, but, um, there’s also this massive kind of, um, pressure within the system.

And if the school doesn’t deal with that pressure and structurally kind of organizing things in the right way, then teachers leave. And that’s really sad because we need people to stay and teach him because they love it. And you 

Pooky Knightsmith: specifically looked in your book at, uh, mental health and mental ill health rather than kind of 

Amy Sayer: wellbeing and that sort of what you brought in that’s different 

Pooky Knightsmith: and new.

And why was it important for you to tackle that kind of aspect of it? The kind of thing? 

Amy Sayer: Yeah, I guess, um, Just kind of reading different resources. There were some really good books out there already about teacher wellbeing. So I didn’t really want to, it anyone’s toes or do something that had already been done really well.

Um, and I think the more research I’ve done into it, the more I’ve kind of realized that. It was an avoidance of wanting to engage in talking about mental health and just not really know knowing what to do. So lots of schools don’t know what reasonable adjustments they can make for colleagues are struggling.

Uh, they don’t even know how to talk about it. You know, like they’ll say really patronizing things to people, not in not trying to patronize them cause they want the best, but it, if you’re struggling with your mental health and someone saying to you. Oh, if you tried some yoga or, um, or like, yeah, we all have bad days at this time of the year.

Like that is literally cause more stress rather than, um, kind of helped with them into health. So, um, Yeah, it it’s, it’s a combination of seeing that there is a, you know, statistically issues to do with staff that are struggling with their mental health, leaving the profession when actually it could be prevented, um, And well-being obviously ties in today.

You know, you can’t have a really good policy about mental health with a general lack of care of wellbeing of staff. Um, but conversing, you can’t just have, Oh, we’ve got a wellbeing program in our school. It’s fantastic. You know, we’ve got like yoga drafts on fire. Damn. We’ve got like creative activities.

If the bigger things are structural things and also the conversations that people are having with their staff about mental health on. Tying together is kind of a holistic approach, I guess. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Is it more important that we’re kind of addressing the root causes of some of the triggers from mental ill health?

Because from what you’re 

Amy Sayer: saying, it sounds like, you know, as a workplace that, um, 

Pooky Knightsmith: schools might trigger mental illness, or is it about supporting people who might have kind of underlying conditions anyway? Or is it a combination of the two. 

Amy Sayer: Hmm. Yeah, I think it’s probably a combination of the two. So recognizing the triggers thing is, is really important because, um, lots of the times, uh, in school, because of the nature of the job and how, you know, it’s much easier to do work and help children than it is to look after yourself because that’s why people go into teaching because they want to look after the kids and help them.

Um, If you’re not getting that right then, um, all sorts of different things could trigger poor mental health. So you can start to, you know, all sorts of things like not sleeping very well. And you know, you’re not doing exercise, you’re not seating. Um, And there were lots and lots of events in school could be quite triggering for mental ill health.

You know, you’re, you’re dealing with children that have been victims of violence or abuse, or there’s other safeguarding things going on, you know, on a weekly basis probably. Um, and if. If you haven’t got the, uh, you know, the capacity within your staff to actually ask those questions and to have like that, that, um, cultural of honesty and openness, then staff could be triggered by something and then start to experience symptoms of mental ill health.

But if leaders aren’t kind of comfortable asking tricky questions, then that person’s going to start to have worse and worse symptoms possibly go off. Um, And not actually address kind of the root cause of what triggered that response in the first place. So I guess it’s a fine night, isn’t it? Between, um, the conversations that you can have with staff as, um, a colleague or a member of your team versus the sorts of conversations that they going to need to have with a therapist.

And I guess it’s about signposting them at all of the time, um, because you could. You know, if someone’s been triggered by a particular event, that’s happened to a child and it’s something that’s happened to them as a child. You know, it’s not the right place necessarily to talk to a colleague about that because they might not be able to process it in the right way with you.

But, um, it’s about signposting them to the right support services. So they know. Um, you know, like for example, uh, education support is fantastic. Cause that’s the 24 seven, uh, phone line that can give people and the work in schools, counseling for free and, you know, access to resources because sometimes you don’t want to talk about it with people in your own school, um, because it’s either too hard or because you don’t feel that it’s the right ethos.

Um, and sometimes you just want to hear, you want to speak to a stranger and just have a bit of a vent about how things are for you in that way. And what are the kind 

Pooky Knightsmith: of practical steps that you think schools can and sort of should be taking? What can we all be doing? Um, so you’ve talked about signposting, but what else can we do?

Amy Sayer: Offering self as much training about mental health? As any staff, mental health as possible. Um, so for example, like with new teachers, uh, that needs to be part of their training because the way that they set themselves up as a teacher from the beginning is vital. Um, and they’ll start to come up with habits and routines, you know, like whether they’re able to fit in going to the gym or meeting up with friends.

And as soon as you start teacher training, because it’s so intense, those things can easily just kind of be cut out and you don’t realize how important they are. Until it’s too late and he starts to become ill like physically or mentally. Um, so training the teachers is really, really important because hopefully they’ll then develop a kind of strategies that will give them a kind of resilience to how things are going to be.

Because teachers, the teacher training area is so stressful because it’s chest so intense, you know, there’s. The capacity for downtime is very small. If you allow it to be, there’s always something else, you can make a new one. So I need display for your classroom, but you need to have those boundaries. And I think it’s a, you know, schools need to say that to new teachers, this, those boundaries need to be in place and that you don’t feel guilty about that because you’d need to spend time looking after yourself because you know, if you’re not there because it’s kind of gone.

Bad because you haven’t had that capacity for this after yourself, then actually that’s going to have a negative effect on everything. You know, you’ll feel rubbish, you know, you’ll feel rubbish about the kids and not being there. So definitely staff training is important, um, and also kind of sharing with staff, a process about how, who they go to and what can be offered to support them if they are struggling with them and still help.

And I think what’s really tricky in schools. Um, And w obviously I, I spoke to kind of lots of different head teachers and people that I’ve worked with over the years about this what’s really tricky is because it is such a stressful environment by its nature. As in the amount of things, you have to do the amount of interactions that you have to have, and the amount of organization and brain power that’s needed to entertain children for five hours a day, um, that kind of, that amount of.

Energy that’s required often can lead you to bad habits. And so what, what needs to happen is there needs to be kind of a referral system. So there could be someone on the leadership team that is kind of the designated staff, mental health lead. Um, it doesn’t have to be someone on the leadership team, but it needs to be someone that.

Is respected and trusted by the leadership. Then say for example, it could be, um, you know, a pastoral leader or someone in school that just really cares about mental health. It’s not really about their title. It’s about their capacity to care and listen, but also the fact that they could actually do something if they needed to, to give kind of practical support.

So the sorts of things you could do, um, Uh, kind of decent staff CPD sessions about what reasonable adjustments look like for mental health within the school. So, um, the, the equality act of 2010 basically says that if someone is struggling with them and to health, All workplaces, but particular in this case, schools have a legal obligation to give them some reasonable adjustments to, uh, basically mean that they can work in the best way that they can and get better or start a process where you know, their mental health can be better than it has been.

But reasonable adjustments are not well-known by schools. Um, and if it’s not a transparent process, this is what we can offer in our school for everyone, irrespective of, you know, age, responsibility, amount of hours, they work, it needs to be a transparent and fair process. And if we can say to staff, actually, look, this is a reasonable adjustment and reasonable adjustment.

It’s a bit of a nice phrase, isn’t it? Because it’s so, um, So, you know, it’s just really cloud isn’t that a reasonable adjustment, someone could say, well, I think that’s a reasonable adjustment and someone else could say, I don’t think that’s a reasonable adjustment. And, and, and the idea is that it needs to be a re reasonable adjustment up to the point that it’s not affecting kind of the student’s wellbeing as well.

So for example, it wouldn’t be reasonable to say. Um, I am struggling with depression, anxiety at the time. So I’m going to need to have free days off a week to do counseling and to do some exercise because three days a week is quite a lot of time. Um, and you’ll then starting to go into the territory of if the students are missing that class teacher for three days out of the five.

It’s not going to have an effect on them. And the answer’s probably yes. So it’s really, really tricky because you want to get the best from your staff. Um, but they need to know what’s available. So for example, if someone needs to have, um, a therapy session once a week, and the only time that their therapist can do is during an afternoon, when they’ve got a lesson, it would be reasonable to say for a short period of time.

For your six months. Uh, but if I need to go to that therapy session once a week, that is okay for them to have that as an authorized absence, as long as they can with proper work, um, I’ve worked around it. Um, and again, if someone practice starting to take medication for mental health, um, illness, then actually it would be reasonable for them to perhaps do reduced hours for a small amount of time, just for their body to adapt.

So. It’s about having kind of case studies to show, uh, staff. This is what we can do to support you and kind of, this is our responsibility, but this is your responsibility as well. So it’s kind of working together, I guess. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Um, and it sounds like one of the really key things here is about creating a culture and an environment where people are able to have these discussions openly and honestly, so that we can find graceful words together.

Um, how do you make that happen? Um, that’s quite a big leap perhaps from where some schools are right 

Amy Sayer: now. No. Hmm, absolutely. Yeah. So you’ve kind of got, obviously you got a spectrum of where schools are in terms of looking after staff mental health, and you’ve got some. Which I can’t even believe I’m saying this, literally don’t talk about staff, mental health at all.

And you know, like if you were to mention it, it’s like you might, you might be then locked away in a dark classroom at the end of the corridor or somewhere because it’s so ridiculous. Um, That is actually going on. You know, you’ve got schools that are ignoring doctor’s advice about, you know, reduced hours or reduced, uh, responsibilities for short period of time.

You’ve got a leadership team. Did they understand, you know, how mental health medication can affect people’s bodies and therefore make it harder for them to do certain parts of their job for a short amount of time while their body’s adjusting? Um, You’ve got schools that are, you know, not giving people time off to go to therapy or expecting them to come back after a therapy session, which is just utterly ridiculous because you know, you’d need that processing time afterwards.

And, you know, if you’re dealing with upsetting stuff, you know, exactly gonna to come bouncing fruit, the, those to deal with 30 teenagers again. Um, so that is kind of one end of the scale. However, and the hopeful message kind of off the book and everything that I’ve thought is it can be changed. And, and it’s a combination of, you know, the leaders of the school.

I recognizing that it is an issue that needs to be dealt with, um, and that you need to talk about it. Giving them the tools to actually talk about it, as in what phrases do they need to say? Because I think, well, I don’t think I know from different kinds of research and things, but actually it’s, people’s fear of making the situation worse that stops them from having the conversations.

Um, so, um, Yeah. It’s, uh, it’s, it’s a bit like, um, yeah, like, you know, like you say, in things that you’ve done, the worst thing you can say is to say nothing. Right? Um, yeah. So you’ve got some schools that, um, someone will come back from being off from having an episode of mental ill health and they won’t want to talk to them about it.

Um, and I was just expecting to get to get on with it and, you know, like it would just be treated the same as any absence, but actually. If there’s things that have triggered that period of mental ill health for that person within the school environment is really important. And that you’re showing them that you’re prepared to talk about those things and ask the tricky questions.

Um, the other thing alongside actually having kind of the practical sentences to ask people, um, is kind of the capacity for genuine empathy and. Kind of vulnerability, I guess, like you don’t want to take leaders in this school that are actually not robots that don’t want to talk about their feedings.

Obviously you don’t want people that are going on talking about their feelings. Oh, this time, because then it gets a bit tricky, but there has to be this balance between lead is being prepared to take a step back and say, you know what? Yeah, I found. That bit really hard. And you know what, in this period of my life, you know, I was really struggling with OCD because all fit and, and it’s not about necessarily, uh, you know, keeping your whole history of your mental health to yourself, but you genuinely have to care about it.

Um, and. That’s really tricky because you can’t really teach that to leaders. Um, it’s not part of their interview question, you know, you’re probably going to get into your questions. Oh, are you able to analyze data? And obviously the answer will be yes, but you’re not usually given such an explicit question.

And if a member of staff was starting to show symptoms for mental health, what would you do with that? What would you be able to say? Or how would you be able to support that member of staff? So I think the more, the more leaders are doing it, um, and modeling that best practice with each other, the better things will be because really, as a teacher, you want to know that the whole leadership team are behind that.

Um, I think if someone is not the whole point is it’s okay to say, you know what? I think it’s really important that we talk about this. Um, I mean it’s down to them. Like they need to, they need to have the skillset. They need to be given the training to do that, but they genuinely need to realize how much of an impact it’s having on the teaching profession.

Because I think, you know, it’s very easy to say, Oh, you know, we like to laugh because like, it’s a really stressful job and I couldn’t have it. Um, or like it’s a really stressful job. And, you know, they just wanted to try something else. But actually the hardest thing is to think about. Do you know what some things go wrong in our school, because like all of these people that are really good at teaching and go into it for the right reasons are leaving.

So something is going wrong and there needs to be that transparency between. People they’re all happy to leave for mental health, actually speaking up and saying, you know, like if I go to the doctors and the doctors is coming back and saying that I need, which we established for a full night on all my work, because I’ll set the copper and I’ll make sure that everything’s in the right place.

But that should be okay. You know, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t be able to ignore your doctor’s nice, but conversely, they shouldn’t even think about, you know, denying someone, the support they need, because it’s not unreasonable and it’s not forever, you know, um, you know, a school and investing in someone’s mental health and in quite a, uh, smooth light as in it won’t cost that much money.

Um, could have a massive impact and it could be that they just go through, you know, a tricky period for a year, but they have access to therapy. And, you know, there were medication, things start to change, but if schools aren’t brave enough to have those conversations, they’re going to keep taking this baby away, but love doing this job on staying with them.

And that’s just not ideal. And do you think

Pooky Knightsmith: that with the right support, anyone with, you know, regardless of where on the spectrum, their mental health sets would have the capacity to fulfill a role in a school? Or do you think that for some people, those issues just do become too great, even with all the reasonable 

Amy Sayer: adjustments?

So in terms of the four most common, um, mental health health conditions that staff will suffer from, you’ve got depression, anxiety, PTSD, and ICD. So within those related, I guess, uh, different kinds of areas of mental health, there are going to be certain kind of previous have caused that period of mental ill health and.

I suppose it involves the partnership of the person being kind of self-aware enough to go, right. I need some help here. This is going to be horrible and it’s going to be rubbish, but nothing’s as rubbish. We not being asked to be with those kids every day. Um, so it relies on a bit of self-awareness and brightness from the person that’s struggling.

Um, But it also relies on the school being prepared to make the reasonable adjustments and to have faith that things are going to get better, because I think it’s really important that leaders understand that with mental health, um, you know, things are going to be tricky for quite a long time, but. If the person has got the right support in school, they’re not going to feel ashamed of the things that are going to have to be.

So they’re not going to have to hide the fact that they’re having therapy or medication, or, you know, doing the treatments that they need. Um, and there needs to be success stories. You know, there needs to be pigs out there that are writing and saying that this is what has happened. But actually my school was fantastic and I know what the triggers are going to be for my poor mental health.

I don’t have a plan. So the other thing that I talk about in the first is this idea of like a care plan for teachers or school staff. So I don’t mean to say teachers it’s just because I want some of that bias, but, um, you know, like people that work with children say, you know, librarians and I teach everyone that’s really important to our schools because it is a case of everyone working together on a daily basis.

Um, so. But again, this needs to be part of a whole school policy. It needs to be standard for leaders to be able to come up with this care plan with the person that is struggling with them into health. And it will be tricky because if someone’s starting to struggle with them and to health by might not be aware of lots of things that have triggered them to be poorly.

Um, and they might not be aware of what they need, but the format or the care plan is. It’s about sort of making them feel, um, on ashamed of what’s going on for them. And it’s kind of facing up to things really. So on the care plan, it can have things like, um, what are the signs and symptoms that were meant to help a Siri rising?

Because it’s not just going to happen overnight. You know? I mean, unless something particularly triggering has happened with it with the child then is, um, you know, cause, um, some sort of mental health illness, um, It could be that there’ve been lots of things actually gradually pawning up. And that is the general kind of trend.

So it’d be things like, uh, you know, people perhaps, uh, looking tired all the time because they’re struggling with anxiety or depression. Um, well, PCC or ICD at it could be that they using or gaining weight. Um, it could be that they are not socializing as much. So it might be that they’re not going to start from for lunch time or they know they’re not talking about, you know, meeting up with their friends or.

You know, all of those sorts of signs and symptoms, which you kind of just take as part of your life, because it can easily be that way. You know, like being a teacher can just be so old conceiving that it is easy to go on to know I’m not going to go to the public, my mates, not because it’s just, I’m terrified of how, um, or, you know, I’m not going to go for a swim before school because I’ve really got to get that marketing done.

Um, or I’m not going to eat right. Is, you know, I’m on GT. So I’m just gonna like grab something from the canteen. I’m not sure, but on the face and then not actually like, you know, get any nutritious food whatsoever the whole day. So it’s like this slippery slope of, if you keep doing things consistently, then.

It’s going to lead to something bad. Um, and just having it on a bit of paper, like these are the signs and symptoms that a person can kind of look out for you and it doesn’t have to be explicit. Like here’s a checklist. Have you done these things this week? It just it’s like a Jen will visit it. And you know that if someone’s doing these behaviors, it’s like, do they already reach dropping at the moment?

Um, And then what’s powerful to know is for the leader, what’s going to help that. And so it could be, um, that if they’ve got, um, a non-teaching period at the end of the day, that I can go home earlier, um, it be that again, if they’ve got non-contact seating at the start of the day, they can go to the gym or for a swim or something.

Um, Or it could be that, you know, they might need to have some time off, you know, in afternoons to go through a doctor’s appointment or to a therapist appointment. So it’s just like a, a one page summary of what, of, out for how schools can support that person. Um, um, what they’re comfortable with people knowing as well, which is really important.

So, you know, Obviously, this is going to not be a document that everyone is going to say, it’s up to you, who you share it with. Um, it might be that you share it with your team of people that you’re working with. If you’re in the depth, because there could be something going on that you need to have people that you’re working with on a daily basis, or it could be something that your line manager has, or it could just be something that your head seat it’s gotta be something that you feel comfortable with.

So, you know, there could be situations, um, within a school that will trigger episodes and for mental health people. And if that’s on that care plan and something has happened that that teacher has had to deal with during the day, which is pretty good or could trigger an FSA to Paul to help them. At the end of the day, just having someone that is going to be Spanish before you and having a conversation quietly, you know, like, you know, that happened with that stuff today, you know, that could be a trigger for you.

Do you need any spices books about it or what are you going to do to look after yourself when you go home today and then catch up with them first thing in the morning? So, um, you know, the amount of different things that teachers are having to deal with, just because of. How schools are organized now, you know, there aren’t as many pastors or leaders or support members of the staff that killed him.

He go to for support. That’s a financial thing. It’s not that every school was not valuing yet. Um, and so classroom teachers are having to pick up more and more kind of safeguarding issues or mental health issues within the students. In a way that they perhaps wouldn’t have done before. And the tricky thing about creating a culture where you are talking about mental health with children in schools, which is fantastic, is setting them up for life.

If they know kind of skills and what to look out for is that it forces the adults, working with them and looking after them to talk about their own mental health. And they might not be ready for that. So it’s kind of tricky and you need to make sure you’ve got a system that can support staff, um, on a daily basis, if it’s needed.

Can you share a 

Pooky Knightsmith: couple of examples of kind of really good practice, like simple things that people could implement that you’ve seen sort of during your, your travels and your research 

Amy Sayer: for the book. Um, so examples of reasonable adjustments, do you mean? Yeah. Yes. Um, so reasonable adjustments, everything say for example, um, yeah, teachers are starting a meetup of medication for any mental health issues like depression running.

So I see, um, It’s giving them time off to have doctor’s appointments at a time that suits them. Because obviously if you’re talking about mental health with adults, it’s useful and easier. If you have the same doctor and that there is not going to have an incident amount of appointments, you know, if you are stuck in a system where your doctors, your doctors, that you, you want to be able to talk about your mental health with isn’t available, you know, Evenings or whatever you’re going to need to have that time off to go to appointments regularly.

And it would be reasonable to allow that member of staff to have regular appointments checking in with adults, could take care of throwing a new medication. So, you know, typical kind of SSRI. So I’ll give them to for depression, anxiety have about a four week period before they are kind of actively working in a system.

Hopefully. So during those first four weeks, it’s vital that you’re checking in with that member of staff, because, you know, they could be struggling with, you know, feeling sick or just being too tired or not sleeping or, you know, not eating right and all those sorts of things. So it would be reasonable if a member of staff was a staffing customer medicating that if they’re saying.

You know what I’m just so wiped out. I think if I went home and practice an hour early each day for top of the week, that would really help because then I can actually, you know, have some downtime, have some extra sleep if I need it. Um, and that will support when they’re not, you know, that is really reasonable.

Um, and it’s down to the leaders to work out a system that allows that, but there’s not an excuse for that not to happen. Um, And not the rezone pool could be. Um, like I said about if someone needs a therapy, for example. Um, so I know that our Academy’s tank kind of has interest system way. People get six free sessions or telephone counts today.

So, um, and, um, I think that’s quite common practice, a lot of schools, um,  again, it needs to be managed into the work kind of weeks. So if someone’s having, um, a therapy session at one o’clock in the afternoon, because that’s when the person’s believable, then it wouldn’t be reasonable to ask them to come back, to teach an afternoon lesson afterwards.

Um, so because again, you know, it’s the session itself. It’s how much processing needs to be done afterwards for it to actually. Allow that person to recover. That’s gonna take time. Um, and they deserve that time. Um, and I suppose other things like, um, I’m just trying to think of other case studies of people that I’ve worked with.

Um, so it could be that eight, um, Yeah, I’m done. That’s fair enough. I 

Pooky Knightsmith: wanted to ask what is someone’s performance in their role is impacted 

Amy Sayer: by that mental 

Pooky Knightsmith: ill health. Like if they’re, they’re not doing as good a job as they used to, or Curt, what 

Amy Sayer: should we do then? I think it’s really important to be always with them.

Um, um, and that’s a whole other conversation to have, um, it’s a hard conversation to happen. It’s a hard conversation to listen to. So I guess it’s that whole thing about genuinely caring about yourself and having that empathy that. You know, what, if it’s not with the children that we teach, you know, their behavior is a symptom of something.

Something has happened to them to create that, but how you feel. So actually, if someone had a really good track record for like years and years and has been a fantastic teacher and I just should go and put the Mark in, or they haven’t put their data into the computers from the time, if you respect them.

And if you genuinely care for them, It’s unpriced to say, you know, I’ve noticed that actually you’ve been missing a few deadlines. You start thinking, you know, is there anything we can do to support you? And it’s about being brave enough to have that conversation, because I think if you’re not bright, you see your thing today.

It’s this, just tell them off and put them on capability to say, do this. And that leaves seating. Like it does a possum, which is terrifying, but actually investing that time into your staff and trying to get to the root cause of things. I mean, it might not be that they are aware enough of what’s going on for them could be at an answer to that.

Right. Then it might be that you need to CISE that member of staff that I’m really worried. And I really want to support you, um, cause you perhaps go away overnight and have a think about, is there any things that I could do to help? So for example, do you need an extent get on that deadline or, um, Is something else going on.

And at that point they’re probably either going to go now it’s fine because they’re in complete denial. But then I even know though, they might start to go, okay. But they’ve asked me, so they care, they see this, I’m going to be honest and I’m going to be brave and it’s going to be horrible. Oh. Um, they might just break down crying and realize that they just can’t cope and have that realization there.

And then. It’s about giving them that space to kind of come to a solution for themselves. And it gets me about teachers is, you know, they’re natural problem solvers. You know, I want to say micromanage, but hundreds of little decisions, um, on that resilience that’s required goes a long way when thinking about mental health, because, um, you it’s all my fault.

You’d be asked to think about what you’d be able to offer one of your students in your care. Like if they were struggling, And having that as an ethos within the school then sort of rubs off on staff, mental health, I think as well, because you’d know what sorts of things you might need to ask for, or the type of staff or that fitness game.

That’s a really good way of 

Pooky Knightsmith: looking at it, actually thinking, yeah. What, what questions would you ask of a student? What might you be able to do for them 

Amy Sayer: and how could this apply for yourself or a 

Pooky Knightsmith: member of staff that you’re concerned about? What do you hope your book will kind of achieve? What, what, what, what would success look like for you for, 

Amy Sayer: from, from your book?

How would things change? Um, I think that’s a very big question. Um, I think, uh, Ryan do things safe. Less people leaving teaching when they really, really love the job and deserve to have the job, um, less shame around mental health in schools, more openness from leaders to be able to have those conversations and not be scared about asking the wrong question.

Um, I’m yeah, it’s quite a systemic change really is happening. Like the schools like that site kind of a hopeful thing from this, because you start to read the statistics. Right? Okay. We have a serious problem here. Um, unless something quite drastic happens, nothing will change and you’ll end up losing good teachers.

You would end up having teachers that are really, really struggling getting to the court of being dangerous, the, with them and to help. And then not being a system to kind of, you know, um, perceive that that is happening. Um, so yeah, I think success would be people staying in teaching that love it, um, and deserves the same thing.

Um, schools being brave enough to have conversations and leaders being brave enough to be vulnerable about mental health and genuinely ask with. The capacity to listen to the answer without it being uncomfortable, because I think has a lot to think they’re really good at listening. Um, they’re very good at listening to be problem solvers because you know, like if a child’s running in and is having a breakdown because they’ve lost the calculator, you know, like we’re really good at data.

And with that really, really quickly. Um, and if a child’s really struggling with something, I just need a bit of support, lightening, encouragement. We do that all the time, like 24 seven, but. If a child is all asking you to listen to them and really listen, because it takes time that schools don’t allow by their organization.

So it’s about leaders making time for their staff to have conversations about mental health, um, and realizing that. You know, there is going to be light at the end of the time, it would like, just because someone’s received a diagnosis for something like with the right treatment, they could be, you know, real success story personally and professionally.

And it’s about having a face that you seen that spark in them that wanted, you know, made them, wants to be a teacher in the first place. And if that spark hasn’t gone, then it’s about working together to make sure that you can get it back again. Wow. That’s, that’s a 

Pooky Knightsmith: lot of hopes, but I think that, yeah, that’s, that’s pretty 

Amy Sayer: interesting.


Pooky Knightsmith: really excited to kind of see how things will change 

Amy Sayer: in the coming years, because I feel 

Pooky Knightsmith: like we’ve come a long way in the last few years, particularly with student mental health, but. Staff mental health is really 

Amy Sayer: lagging behind. And as you say, there’s been quite a big impact on staff, 

Pooky Knightsmith: mental health of all the work we’ve done on student mental health.

And yeah, I really hope that as people begin to take staff mental health more seriously, that we will see a bit of a step change. What, um, what thought would you like to kind of 

Amy Sayer: leave people? Brown has done a lot of work about kind of, um, being brave enough to be vulnerable and about how important empathy is in the world.

Not just in schools. I think it’s very, very easy for school leaders to show sympathy towards someone that is struggling with their mental health. Um, and they’ll say things like, Oh, you know, not, you know, you do a really good job and the kids really love being with you and, and things that are trying to make you better, but it’s just really struggling with your mental health.

I’m going to have exactly the opposite effect and. It’s about being brave enough to sit with someone in that distress and Salem genuine empathy. Um, I’m trying to understand what it’s like for them and stay through their eyes, um, so that you can work together because if there isn’t that understanding of how things are, and if someone is just showing the Titan sympathy gesture, which makes them feel better, but doesn’t actually do anything then.

Nothing will change. But if you are genuinely listening with empathy and trying to understand what it feels like to be them, but also how you could work together to make things better, then that’s going to be the way to, to change things in schools. I think .

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