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In the first of a series of articles exploring teacher health and wellbeing, Hugh Smith encourages us to move towards a “personal preventative intervention strategy”

Teaching is psychologically and physiologically demanding within complex learning and teaching settings, yet so many of us do not take time to ensure that our personal mental and physical wellbeing is managed effectively, thus contributing to our overall fitness to teach. Perhaps there is an expectation that effective management of personal mental and physical wellbeing takes care of itself, but, sadly, colleagues who work in learning and teaching settings, including those aspiring to work in such settings, are increasingly reporting personal mental health and wellbeing challenges.

The instances of the early warning signs of presenteeism (i.e. where colleagues attend their place of work, but struggle with straightforward teaching and associated tasks because of an underlying state of unwellness) is more common than most of us believe. If ignored, colleagues will experience absenteeism, and sometimes for lengthy periods of time.

Clinical intervention should not be seen as a panacea, but an essential support that might be required at a specific point in time

If the early warning signs are heeded, then long-term absence can be avoided. The belief that mental health and wellbeing challenges happen to others is simply without foundation. We all have the capacity to succumb to these challenges and perhaps it is time to recognise that this will happen unless action is taken.

Clinical intervention should not be seen as a panacea, but an essential support that might be required at a specific point in time. Preventative intervention on the other hand, or a willingness to engage with this, will ensure that teaching colleagues will keep their personal mental and physical wellbeing in check.

Preventative intervention is not going to be arranged by others, although some learning and teaching settings are pioneering a range of strategies to support learning and teaching staff . The varied online advice and guidance that is available can shape the development of a personal preventative intervention strategy. Perhaps it is time to take stock and take action.

Online advice

About the Author

Hugh Smith was Head of Career-Long Professional Learning within the School of Education, University of the West of Scotland, until 2015 and now works as a Mental Health and Wellbeing in Education Consultant.

Hugh’s most recent publication, The Impact of Mental Health and Wellbeing on Effective Learning and Teaching, offers practical guidance and advice on health and wellbeing in learning and teaching settings.

Visit his website at:

Teaching Scotland

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Editor contact: Evelyn Wilkins

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