Mental Health in the ECEC Sector

What is Mental Health?

According to the dictionary it is defined as – 

mental health

noun

noun: mental health

a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.

“all this pressure seems to be affecting his mental health”

Beyond Blue states – 

‘Mental health’ is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and others. 

Beyond Blue

SANE Australia state –

Around half of us experience some form of mental health problem at some time in life. It’s a common part of being human, therefore. Good mental health is something to which we can all aspire.

SANE Australia

Dealing with Mental Health in the ECEC Sector

Over the last 20 years mental health, and rightly so, has come to the forefront of minds, media, workplaces, society, community, social media, and in print on a daily basis in some paper or magazine, or a new book published to help cope.

We need to ask the questions of ourselves:

  • How does the industry support mental health conditions in a supportive way?
  • How can those that don’t understand what mental health is all about being informed?
  • How can centres be continuously inclusive of all?
  • Should mental health conditions be disclosed on employment, the same as if you were to have epilepsy?
  • Should a “mental health” first aid be compulsory for Directors?
  • How is there time to find knowledge, complete courses, and run each and every day a compliant service?

What to Consider for Mental Health in ECEC

Think of the following –

All centres should have EEO policy

in which everyone is entitled to apply for a position in the workplace and they won’t be discriminated against if they have any pre-existing conditions – should this be given to all new Educators being employed – so that they are aware that this is a workplace that respects everyone – thus allowing people to feel they won’t be discriminated against.

Educators on beginning employment and renewing contracts

They would be completing a personal record of allergies, medical needs etc – should there be a section in there that they can record any “mental health” information?

What is the centre’s “ethos” around mental health?

Is it recognised as a serious condition, it is joked about, is it ignored? How can you change this if necessary – can key members of management undergo “Mental Health First Aid Training” and share their knowledge with everyone at the centre.

Is the workplace a supportive environment?

Does everyone feel they can be open with management about how they are feeling, and rather than be judged, can a solution be reached together? How can you create and promote this – Open Door Policy – that actually occurs. Try the – tell me something about you that I don’t know in five minutes- and reciprocate the moment…

What does your sickness policy look like?

Do Educators have to supply medical certificates every time they call in sick? Is there a clause where you can ask for more information on the sickness? How many days off consecutively do you allow for unknown illnesses? Do you encourage Educators to discuss their health needs with you? Do you openly offer “mental health” sick days if you see someone struggling? Do you encourage Educators to attend medical appointments regardless of when they are during the day? – Is all of the above something that needs addressing?

Mental health is more and more prevalent and occurring to 1 in 5 people aged 16 to 85 years old experience some form of mental health illness every year. So in a small centre with maybe 20 Educators – at least four people may be suffering, and do you as the Director know about this?

Mental health has really become everyone’s issue, whether suffering, supporting, fundraising, or acknowledging its an issue we all need to gain more awareness in.

Take care of yourself and those around you.