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School Mental Health is Not Just for Students

Guest author Andrea Notch Mayzeles is a workforce health consultant with Kaiser Permanente.

While supporting students is the highest calling for school employees, putting in place school-based programs that support the mental health of teachers and staff is more important than you may realize. Districts that support the mental health of teachers and staff are more likely to have a workforce with lower levels of stress, improved job performance and job satisfaction, lower levels of employee turnover, and an increased ability to promote student mental health and success. A strong staff also means an improved school climate, and better student success.

KIPP Public Charter Schools Northern California is demonstrating how supporting teachers and staff can benefit the entire school community. 

“Having staff who feel supported in their well-being is the key to retaining valuable employees who are supporting students and their communities,” said Sandra Gamez-Jimenez, KIPP Associate Director of Wellness and Workplace Mental Health.

In 2021, KIPP launched a robust mental health and well-being strategy called Mental Health For All. The goal was to support the mental health of KIPP’s educators and staff, so they were able to show up at their best for the kids, families, and communities they serve.

Partnering with Mind Share Partners to help steward the work, the KIPP team conducted interviews to gather perspectives and understand the well-being needs of their teachers and staff. They also formed a Mental Health Advisory Committee to provide feedback and input. KIPP understood the value of collaborating with partners and bolstered their strategy to include numerous stakeholders, including Kaiser Permanente – their health benefits provider, their EAP provider, and additional contracted mental health providers dedicated to teachers and staff.

KIPP’s strategy included a three-pronged approach to enhancing Care (providing access to high quality, impactful benefits), Connection (building peer-support communities of care), and Culture (normalizing and enhancing a positive culture of mental health).

So far, these efforts have demonstrated impactful results. KIPP employees have reported a 76% increase in knowing how to seek support for mental health. They also report increases in believing their mental health is a priority, and that their work environment positively impacts their mental health (36% and 30% respectively). Other impacts include improved job satisfaction and an increase in the perspective that leaders model mentally healthy practices.

If you are looking to begin – or enhance – a mental health strategy for your teachers and staff, KIPP offers several recommendations any school can use:

  • Actively engage teachers and staff to measure, assess, and understand their needs.
  • Invest in benefits that will help support your teacher and staff well-being.
  • Create strategic partnerships with vendors and health plans to streamline access to resources and ensure they continue to meet your needs.
  • Share stories about leadership mental health and well-being to create staff connections and normalize mental health conversations.
  • Dedicate a staff member(s) to help support a mental health strategy for teachers and staff.
  • Create a climate and culture where staff feel connected to their colleagues. The Thriving Schools’ and Alliance for a Healthier Generation guide for Building a Sustainable Gratitude Practice in Your School Community is a resource.
  • Provide professional development on social-emotional skills, trauma-informed approaches, burnout mitigation, and resilience.

Targeted mental health support for teachers and staff is crucial for a thriving school environment. Establishing a strategy to address teacher and staff mental health can make a difference in the awareness, utilization, and impact of programming efforts to build a healthy workforce, as KIPP learned from their efforts. In a recent survey, one KIPP employee shared, “thank you for prioritizing our mental health! Teaching continues to be a difficult profession, so keep investing in our mental health for all of our sakes!”

Interested in taking action to support the mental health of your school or district? Check out our no-cost resources to find out how to get started. Supporting the mental health of teachers and staff supports the entire school community.


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