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How can you support your own mental health?


Faculty/teaching staff face many demands on their time. Every year, many faculty are designing and teaching more courses, taking on more students, figuring out how to embed the latest technology into these courses, and doing research. This can cause stress and anxiety. This can lead to adverse changes in mental health, as well as decreased productivity and overall satisfaction with work.[1]Dyjur, P., Lindstrom, G., Arguera, N., & Bair, H. (2017). USING MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS AS A FRAMEWORK FOR COURSE DESIGN. Papers on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, 2, 1-9. Specifically, in the time of COVID-19, many faculty members, like workers across the globe, have had to quickly move all their work online on top of personal responsibilities, such as caregiving duties. This has created a stressful and challenging situation for many. If the work environment is not a mentally-healthy one, faculty and teaching staff will face issues when it comes to supporting their mental health and may be unable to support students when they experience mental health challenges.[2]Mackean, G. (2011). Mental health and well-being in postsecondary education settings. CACUSS, 1-59.

Many faculty members are wary of speaking out about their own mental health because of the fear of how others may perceive them after such a disclosure.[3]Price, M., & Kerschbaum, S. L. (2017). Promoting Supportive Academic Environments for Faculty With Mental Illness. Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, 1-29. But to normalize mental health among faculty and change how it is perceived, mental health has to become part of the conversation. Speaking about mental health will not only help faculty and teaching staff connect to the supports they may need, it will also help them to connect with other faculty members about the topic.

It has been shown that one of the main factors that contributes to student mental health is the support of faculty (Warwick et al, 2008). Having good institutional supports lets faculty know they are valued and their mental health also matters. Over the past few years, many colleges and universities have added to the support services they offer to faculty. Unfortunately, many faculty/teaching staff do not know what is available for them to access. In a study[4]Price, M., & Kerschbaum, S. L. (2017). Promoting Supportive Academic Environments for Faculty With Mental Illness. Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, 1-29., it was noted that approximately 70 per cent of faculty were either not at all familiar or slightly familiar with the support services they could access on campus.

Below are some of the things that can be done to support faculty mental health so they are able to bring their best selves to work:

  • Connect with the employee assistance program or staff health and wellness department to see what mental health services and supports are available on or off-campus, like BounceBack
  • Talk to the department/faculty chairperson about any difficulties being experienced around mental health
  • Encourage the faculty/department to create a community of practice dedicated to mental health support and strategies
  • Stay connected to colleagues and engage in open conversations about mental health
  • Engage in self-care to help reduce chances of burnout
    • Many resources available online, like this webinar by the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH), that can help with finding the right self-care practice
  • Participate in mental health trainings like More Feet on the Ground, Mental Health Works and The Working Mind to get equipped with the tools to support faculty mental health

References

References
1Dyjur, P., Lindstrom, G., Arguera, N., & Bair, H. (2017). USING MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS AS A FRAMEWORK FOR COURSE DESIGN. Papers on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, 2, 1-9.
2Mackean, G. (2011). Mental health and well-being in postsecondary education settings. CACUSS, 1-59.
3, 4Price, M., & Kerschbaum, S. L. (2017). Promoting Supportive Academic Environments for Faculty With Mental Illness. Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities, 1-29.
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