Psychosocial health literacy of teachers in Tyrol

This contribution is part of our series of blog posts by students at MCI | The Entrepreneurial School®. The views expressed are those of the students themselves and are intended to inform and stimulate discourse.

 

 

Authors: Nina Bazzanella, Lea Kirchler, Regina Kollmann, Timna Moser

29.6.2021

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Lukas Kerschbaumer, BA MA
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Mental health is the fundamental cornerstone for a satisfied life, which has not only individual but also societal implications. In order to offer children and adolescents the opportunity to prepare themselves for mental challenges in everyday life at an early age, the psychosocial health competence of teachers plays a decisive role. An identified problems is that teachers feel undereducated and, above all, have difficulties dealing with the issue and initiating supportive measures for those affected (Bibou-Nakou, 2004; Hartmann, Rückmann & Tannen, 2020).

Empirical research

Via a survey, teachers' awareness of mental health, their self-assessment in dealing with children and adolescents in difficult situations, and needs for improvement were explored. These results were further supplemented and discussed with the help of an online focus group. A total of 420 teachers in Tyrol from different types of schools participated in the survey, 288 of whom answered it completely. Four female teachers participated in the online focus group, three of them teach in elementary schools and one in an AHS (high school).

 

Results

  • Relationship between sense of competence and supplementary education

There is a clear connection between the feeling of competence and further education on the topic of mental health. More than half of the teachers who have completed at least one further education seminar feel rather or very competent. It also emerged that the majority of those who have not completed any additional training on the topic of mental health only answered "partially" to the question about their feeling of competence.

  • Relationship between experience(s) with mentally distressed adolescents and sense of responsibility to educate about the issue

No significant correlation could be identified. Nevertheless, it is clear to see that the sense of responsibility is higher among those with experience. It can be presumed that due to the small sample, no significant result could be proven in this regard. It is also evident from the qualitative research that the participants in the online focus group have a high sense of responsibility. However, the responsibilities of teachers and therapists are to be clearly separated.

Figure 1: Sense of responsibility

  • Relationship between type of intervention and change in the situation of the affected persons

Differences in the different types of intervention were found. "Conversation with affected persons" and "Conversation with colleagues" proved to be successful. Although an irregular presence of the school psychologist in the online focus group was criticized, the results of the survey show that the "conversation with school psychologists" is very effective.

Figure 2: Intervention type & situation of the affected persons

  • Connection between bullying and seeking a conversation with the affected person

No significant correlation was found between bullying and "seeking discussion with those affected". However, the intervention type "talk to colleagues" is significant. Although it is stated in the literature that in the case of bullying, the first step is to "talk to those affected", it was also described that in the case of uncertainty, the first step is to "talk to colleagues". In addition, the qualitative research showed that bullying is a very complex topic and the term is often misused and misinterpreted, especially by parents.

  • Needs of teachers for safe interaction with affected persons

Results indicated that most teachers would like guidance on how to properly interact with students, as well as more external support. The participants of the online focus group agreed that more external support is needed. They feel that the current offer is insufficient in terms of time capacity but also in terms of quality. "In Austria, there are currently only 181 school psychologists available for 1.1 million students" (news.ORF.at, 2021).

 

Conclusion

The quantitative and qualitative research shows that additional training is helpful because teachers feel more competent in dealing with victims and in initiating interventions. Since "talking to colleagues" is an effective intervention, closer and more frequent informal and formal exchanges between teachers would be important in the future in order to provide more targeted help to those affected. In the online focus group, the needs of teaching staff were identified in more detail, where more external support was desired in particular. In addition, smaller classes would be helpful, as this would allow the teacher to spend more time on each individual student.

It can be seen that the personal resources are not sufficiently developed. Additional financial resources to hire more specialized staff would be necessary and could better meet the needs. By providing early help and learning how to properly manage one's own mental health while still in school, it would be possible to advance the health promotion of society.

References

Bibou-Nakou, I. (2004). Helping Teachers to Help Children Living with a Mentally Ill Parent. School Psychology International, 25(1), 42–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034304041502

Hartmann, A., Rückmann, J. & Tannen, A. (2020). Individuelle Gesundheitskompetenz von Lehrkräften und deren (Un)Sicherheit im Umgang mit chronisch erkrankten Schulkindern und Notfallsituationen. Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz, 63(9), 1168–1176. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-020-03207-7

News.ORF.at. (2021). Derzeit 181 Schulpsychologen für 1,1 Millionen Schüler. Zugriff am 25.06.2021. Verfügbar unter: https://orf.at/stories/3214497/

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