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Indian Teachers Facing High Rates of Mental Health Issues, Study Finds

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Researchers from JSS Medical College, DIMHANS, and Maharaja’s College at the University of Mysore recently conducted a study that revealed significant mental health issues among teachers in southern India. The cross-sectional survey, which included 404 teachers, highlights the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as issues related to mental health literacy and stigma. The findings underscore the urgent need for targeted mental health programmes for educators to effectively support their students and themselves. The findings were published in the Journal of Mental Health & Human Behaviour.

The study found that 59.4% of the participating teachers had elevated scores on the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS-21), indicating a need for diagnostic evaluation for anxiety and depression. Among these, 42.6% exhibited elevated depression symptoms, with 18.1% experiencing mild symptoms, 17.8% moderate, and 6.7% severe. Similarly, 54.2% showed signs of anxiety, with 21.0% having mild symptoms, 15.8% moderate, and 17.3% severe. Additionally, 37.4% of teachers reported comorbid symptoms of both anxiety and depression​​.

Stress was also prevalent, with 30.7% of teachers reporting elevated stress levels. Of these, 15.8% experienced mild stress, 10.4% moderate, and 4.5% severe. The study’s t-test analysis revealed that teachers with symptoms of anxiety and depression had significantly higher stress scores compared to those without these symptoms​​. This finding suggests that stress plays a significant role in the psychological distress teachers experience.

Resilience, defined as the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity, was assessed using the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC-25). Teachers with elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression scored significantly lower in various aspects of resilience, including hardiness, coping, optimism, emotion regulation, and self-efficacy. The average resilience score among teachers was 69.30, lower than the 77.77 score observed in a similar study of Indian nurses. These lower resilience levels highlight the need for resilience-building initiatives within teacher training programmes​​.

Stigma related to mental health was measured using the Reported and Intended Behaviour Scale (RIBS). Most teachers reported no personal experience with individuals facing mental health problems, which may contribute to the stigma. The study found that a significant number of teachers were neutral or slightly disagreed with the idea of living, working, or residing near someone with mental health issues, and many were hesitant to maintain relationships with friends facing these challenges​​.

In terms of mental health literacy, teachers displayed above-average knowledge of mental health problems, first-aid skills, and help-seeking behaviours. However, they also exhibited higher levels of erroneous beliefs or stereotypes compared to a validation study sample, indicating a gap in accurate mental health knowledge. The mean score for erroneous beliefs among teachers was 3.92, significantly higher than the 2.24 score in the validation study sample​​.

The findings of this study highlight the critical role of schoolteachers in shaping the mental well-being of their students. Teachers are often the first to notice changes in students’ behaviour, emotions, or academic performance, positioning them as vital intermediaries linking students, parents, and mental health professionals. For teachers to fulfil this role effectively, they must have robust mental well-being and comprehensive mental health knowledge.

To address these challenges, the study recommends the implementation of comprehensive teacher training programmes focused on mental health awareness, stress management, coping strategies, and emotional intelligence. Such programmes can significantly enhance teachers’ abilities to recognise, address, and support students’ mental health needs, thereby fostering a more inclusive and supportive educational environment​​.

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