Can you be a teacher with depression?

In this article, we will discuss whether you can be a teacher if you have diagnosed depression. 

We will also explore what you can do to manage your symptoms of depression while being a teacher. 

Can you be a teacher with depression?

Yes, you can be a teacher even if you have a diagnosed mental health condition such as depression. 

However, you have to be aware of the impact your mental health condition might have on your ability to be an effective teacher.

Here are a few things you can do to manage as a teacher while also being affected by depression:

  • Talk to you supervisor about your condition
  • Consider accommodations
  • Get support from fellow teachers
  • Set expectations 
  • Get physical
  • Be mindful of your own limits 
  • Make changes in your own career
  • Set boundaries 

Teaching and Mental health

While the profession of a teacher has been a highly respected one for centuries, today it is considered as one of the most stressful jobs in the workforce because of the demands that teachers face to do better by the students, the parents, and the establishment. 

There have been several studies done to understand the mental health status of teachers and a study done on the teachers of the north of Spain found that there is a  high percentage of teachers that have reported symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. 

The study also found that female teachers show more symptoms of stress and anxiety than male teachers. It was also noticed that the family of the teacher also plays a huge role in their sense of mental well-being. 

Teachers who have children were found to have reported more depressive symptoms than those who do not. Another interesting finding was that teachers that live with other people with chronic illnesses were reported to have more stress, anxiety and depression.


Similarly in the US, a study on almost 600 teachers of both special education and general education found that both types of teachers demonstrated high levels of stress with special education teachers being found to have significantly higher levels of stress. 

It is also to be noticed that there was no significant difference in the levels of burnout experience by these two type of teachers and the researchers stressed that,

“…High teaching-related stress levels predicted measured symptoms of anxiety and depression…”

Let us look at a few challenges that teachers face that make anxiety and depression related to stress part of this job’s occupational hazard.

Challenges that teachers face

Let us look at some of the common challenges and stressors that most teachers face that you need to know before becoming a part of this career field. 

  • Teachers are given the immense task of getting their students to engage in the class and in the process of learning. The fact that one teacher has to be accountable for at least 20 students can cause a lot of strain on the teacher. 

This strain can cause a lot of anxiety when it comes to teaching and this anxiety can ultimately turn into depression when the teacher starts to personalise their inability to get all students engaged in their class all the time. 

  • Teachers are also pressured to do well by the higher ups. The failure of students ultimately is seen as the failure of the teacher for not being able to do their job. 

A lot of teachers might have the feeling of inadequacy, especially during their first years- having to teach something that they do not have 100% understanding of and at the same time having to work with a huge number of students can add to this pressure that you have to be the best. 

  • In schools, because the entire institution is made up of people with their owns stories and their own life challenges can lead to teachers being exposed to triggering episodes.

A teacher might have to deal with students who are depressed and anxious or even have to be on the look out for at risk students who might be a harm to themselves and to others. 

This exposure to constant stressful situtaons can aso add to the stress of the teachers that ultimately impact their well0eing. 

  • Physical, Social and Mental Strain

Teachers deal with constant strain on their bodies, their minds, and also tension within their own social lives. The stress from school can impact their health and their relationships at home which can ultimately impact their performance at work and their relationships with their students. 

This constant strain in all parts of their lives is a big challenge when it comes to the teaching job which can be detrimental to any individual especially ones that are susceptible to mental illnesses and problems. 

How to be a teacher when living with depression

Here are a few things you can do if you are considering being a teacher if you have mental health conditions such as depression:

  • Educate yourself 

Take time to educate yourself about the various laws in your country that protect you against discrimination vecause of your mental health conditoon and various benifits that you are entitled to as part of these policies. 

Take time to read the teacher handbook and the school policies that protect you and the process of availing benefits such as FMLA leave. 

  • Talk to you supervisor about your condition

Once you are hired for the job, make sure that you talk to your supervisor or the administration about your mental health condition if you think it is important. 

If you don’t think it is required, then you don’t have to, however- in the case that the workload is affecting your mental health, the best thing you can do for yourself is to talk to them about possible changes to help you cope. 

  • Consider accommodations

When you speak to your supervisors, talk to them about accommodations that can help you meet the goals of your school and your students. Talk to them about what you can and cannot do and be honest about how you plan to meet the objectives of your students’ learning. 

These accommodations have to be realistic and beneficial for both your students, the school, and yourself. Make sure you let them know how many hours after school you will be entertaining calls from the office or from parents. 

Or how you plan to meet the needs of the students while also letting them know that you will need a little more extra time in correcting papers or other issues.

  • Get support from fellow teachers

Getting support from your colleagues can also open up space for honest conversations when it comes to mental health. There might be other teachers who are also struggling with mental health conditions that might need support as well. 

Doing things that are beyond school work, taking time to listen and support them while they do the same for you can help build an inclusive and supportive environment for you to thrive in. 

  • Set expectations 

Make sure that when you are especially stressed that you set expectations with your students, colleagues, and administration about what you can or cannot do. 

Make sure that you allow your students to understand that you are also having a hard time and open up the space for mutual understanding and support- This way, the stress of having to engage them or discipline them is lessened.

Setting expectations also means setting boundaries between you, the students, and the administration in ways where they do not overpower you nor do you try to do the same. 

  • Be mindful of your own limits 

Take time to understand that you are limited in many ways, that is the honest truth however, you can do so much within these limits. 

Take time to understand what you can and cannot do. For example, you cannot give your 100 percent to a class of 30 students on a bad day, so accept that and figure out some things you can do to help them learn while also protecting yourself from a breakdown. 

  • Make changes in your own career

Do not limit yourself to teaching in the same school for the same grades. If you know that you cannot handle it, there is no shame in admitting that you are unable to do something.

 It simply means that you do not have the skills at the moment but that doesn’t mean you cannot acquire these skills or look for other jobs that your present skill set will fit perfectly. 

If you think, teaching a group of teenage students adds more stress as compared to working with college students, consider a shift in careers. You can also consider working as corporate trainers and other teaching jobs that can help you maintain a better mental health status. 

Conclusion

In this article we have discussed how teaching jobs affect mental health and what are some challenges that a teacher faces that can affect their well-being. We have also explored what are some of the things you can do to cope with depression as a teacher. 

References:

www.burnedinteacher.com

Frequently asked questions related to “Can you be a teacher with depression”

Can a teacher be fired for depression?

No, a teacher cannot be fired for depression or any other mental health illnesses as employees are protected by law against discrimination in the basis of disability caused by mental health disorders.

Can you be a teacher if you have a mental illness?

Nothing in the law prevents someone with a mental illness from teaching and often, schools do not look into the medical history of a person to employ or reject them. 

If you have your depression symptoms under control and you are able to work and meet the demands of your job effectively, there is nothing that stops you from being hired as a teacher. 

Can I lose my job for being suicidal?

An employee who has become suicidal due to a health condition is protected by the disability act in most countries. 

For example, the ADA says it is illegal to take employment actions based on the employee’s mental health condition- meaning that you will not lose your job if you are suicidal however, talking to your doctor and your supervisor for accommodations would be a healthy thing you can do for yourself. 

How do you know if your teacher is stressed?

If you notice a few behavioural changes within your teacher such as irritability, mood swings and exhaustion could be an indication that they are stressed. 

Most teachers are not aware that they are stressed until it impacts their life physically and their students as well. If you notice that your teacher is stressed and you are wondering what you should do about it- calling their attention to their behaviour privately with compassion could be a good place to start. 

What does teacher burnout look like?

Here are a few burnout symptoms that might manifest in teacher:s

  • Cynicism and a sense of detachment from work or life
  • Loss of enjoyment when it comes to their job
  • Pessimism about their role and the vision of the school
  • Isolation from peers and students. 
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness 
  • Apathy
  • increased irritability
  • Poor performance.

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