I am starting a conversation about mental health in English Language Teaching. I am not sure if this has ever been discussed or debated widely within the industry. In doing so, I am sharing some personal information about my experience of suffering from poor mental health at work. I do this in the hope that other teachers will open up, too, leading to more understanding and support for teachers as workers. I have never known professional development or training within ELT deal with these kinds of issues. For many, a stigma still exists. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance. It is an ongoing challenge.
In the past, I have volunteered for the mental health charity, Norwich Mind, and am hoping to do something for them again in the near future. I was and still am intrinsically motivated. I also follow the Time To Change campaign which is foremost about ending discrimination, mostly in the workplace, against people who suffer with mental health issues.
I’ve always considered my own issues to be a personal thing, not one of institutional discrimination or workers’ rights. Nonetheless, to coincide with the national Time To Talk day, I’ve been interviewed by Paul Walsh for the Teachers as Workers Special Interest Group (TaWSIG). You can read the interview here.
The image on the right shows a censored version of my diary note (written on 10 October 2016) listing the 11 times since 2006 that poor mental health has impacted on my teaching career, including 2 trips to the IATEFL conference in Liverpool (2013) and Harrogate (2014). I have redacted the details to protect myself and colleagues who worked with me or were my line managers at the time.
If the post proves to be popular then I might consider the possibility of speaking about it at a conference at a later date. I’ve never seen this particular topic presented within our profession but am curious to know if it has been.
Please feel free to comment here or on the TaWSIG site. I promise to personally respond to each and every one that leaves a message.
*update 6 Feb: The interview post received hundreds of views in a few days. In the week following its publication, it was shared many times on social media. It inspired at least two other bloggers, Sandy Millin and Elly Setterfield to write their own personal responses to coincide with Time to Talk day, including lots of links and resources on this topic. I was thrilled by the response and hope to follow this up at a later date. In the meantime, I am planning on approaching Mind once more to see if they have any work for me.
*further update 23 Apr 2018: A edited clip from the interview recording about a single trigger behind having a panic attack – the basis for the quotation above.