Canadian teachers experiencing a mental health crisis
The latest results of a pan-Canadian survey on teacher mental health and well-being have led the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) to sound a national alarm. Just a few months into the school year, teachers across the country are reaching their breaking point.
The report is available to read here.
Last October, as the voice of more than 300,000 teachers from coast to coast to coast, the CTF/FCE did a survey, the Teacher Mental Health Check-in Survey, which received nearly 14,000 responses. The results detail unbearable levels of stress, anxiety, and a struggle to cope with the demands of teaching during the pandemic. Results show that close to 70% of respondents are concerned about their own mental health and well-being. With COVID-19 cases rising to new levels, and a worst-case scenario on the horizon, teachers must contend with the increasing risk of becoming infected, and the worry that accompanies this reality as they work to educate and keep their students safe.
These challenges faced by teachers, and education workers, in current context are not only a threat to Canada’s education systems but also to its economic recovery. Indeed, when schools close and classes move to virtual formats, the amount of time parents – particularly mothers – have available to work is significantly lower, and therefore reduces income to those workers and the economy as a whole.
From the outset of the pandemic and during the ensuing health, equity, and economic crisis, the CTF/FCE has strongly advocated for publicly funded public schools to remain safely and sustainably open as the future of our children and our country depends on it.
However, as many jurisdictions have ignored safe return to school guidelines set by the CTF/FCE in August, the burden and responsibility of keeping students and school staff safe have been largely left to teachers, support personnel, and administrators to organize and maintain. According to the CTF/FCE survey, “there is a need for multiple layers of support, at the school, board, and Ministry level, to first, listen and recognize the issues, and secondly, make the required changes to mitigate the effects of increased workload and job demands on teachers.”
In order to address the deteriorating mental health of teachers, the CTF/FCE urgently recommends that all jurisdictions – provincial, territorial, and federal – immediately: 1) allocate more resources to mental health services tailored for the unique workplace stressors of teachers and other frontline workers, 2) implement the same health and safety guidelines in schools that are already mandated outside of education, including the use of masks and physical distancing, and 3) consult teachers, whose experiences as frontline workers are essential in developing good policies.
This pandemic has only exasperated already existing funding and resourcing gaps in publicly funded public education. If Canada truly believes in quality teaching and learning for all, then a renewed focus on returning our country’s education systems among the best and safest in the world must begin now.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation
Founded in 1920, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation is the national voice for the teaching profession. As the national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations, the CTF/FCE represents over 300,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.
Canadian Teachers’ Federation