We all know that mental health is one of the biggest issues facing young Australians, with ABS statistics finding that one in six Australians are currently experiencing depression, anxiety, or both.
While an increase in support services has thankfully led to an increase in support-seeking, how often do any of us stop to consider our teachers and if they need any help?
Tomorrow is RUOK? Day. Now in its 11th year, the annual event is held by groups across the country at schools, workplaces, universities as well as at neighbourhood and community centres.
Encouraging people to ask others in their lives “Are you OK?”, it aims at raising awareness, tips on how to start conversations about mental health, and links to organisations that can help those in need.
But how often do any of us ask our teachers? Our teachers are a wonderful resource, providing incredible help, support and knowledge to their students.
RUOK? Day provides us all a great opportunity to check in with the teachers who do their best for our kids. It is also a chance for teachers to look out for one another or to speak up if they’re experiencing any problems.
A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that the average work week for an Aussie teacher is 44.8 hours. That’s six hours longer than the international average.
The same report discovered Aussie teachers spend on average 25 hours a week on non-teaching activities, also well above the international average. Both areas have increased since the previous report conducted in 2013.
Australian Council of Education Research deputy chief executive Dr. Sue Thompson said that while “we’re always talking about extra things that teachers need to be doing we don’t give them time to do the things that we know make them good teachers”.
“It’s important that teachers get time to reflect, to observe other teachers and talk to mentors, but we’re not allowing them any of that time,” she said.
Mounting pressure on our teachers combined with increased contact with parents and schools in person, email, educational apps like SeeSaw and Google Classroom leaves less time for teachers to ‘switch off’ and relax outside their usual work hours.
Australian Government data indicated an average of 5.7 per cent of teachers left the profession in 2014. While the exact reasons are currently under investigation, the number of teachers leaving the profession is growing.
So how can each of us, as well as teachers and other school staff, work to help each other? RUOK?’s signature four step guide is a great way to start.
Step 1: Ask. Start by simply asking someone “Are you ok?”.
Step 2: Listen. Really listen to their response. Let them know you’re there to help them and that they are really being heard.
Step 3: Encourage Action. Sufferers of mental health issues can find it difficult to seek help on their own. Support positive steps and help them start if they need. The RUOK? website has many helpful links and phone numbers for anyone seeking help at www.ruok.org.au/findhelp
Step 4: Check In. Follow up with the person you have helped. Make sure they are receiving the help they need. Let them know you’re still there to help. RUOK? is about more than just one day.
This week take a few minutes when picking up the kids to say hello, thank the teachers and let them know they’re appreciated.
Kind words and a quick question, ‘Are you Ok?”, could go a long way to ensuring your kids keep their hard-working teachers.