Teachers spend the better part of their adult lives working with children. While teaching is a very rewarding profession, it’s one that comes with significant challenges. To cope with those challenges, some teachers may turn to illegal substances and alcohol.
Any educator who has mental health challenges, including substance abuse issues, needs to get help so they can continue to work with children. While there’s a perceived stigma associated with mental health issues, getting help is always the best course of action. Mental health disorders that are left untreated may eventually become worse, making them even more difficult to treat.
Teaching Comes With Unique Stressors
Many people don’t realize the stressors that come with teaching. You’re responsible for caring for other people’s children. You have to follow a set curriculum and lesson plans. You need to prepare the children for standardized and other testing. All of this has to be handled within an allotted time frame, which adds even more pressure to a teacher’s daily life.
Unfortunately, educators can’t usually just take a break when things get to be too much for them. They’re expected to keep control of their classroom and be able to work through any situation that comes up. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have changed education, and teachers are likely required to provide virtual instruction on a full- or part-time basis.
The stress that teachers face isn’t necessarily limited to the classroom. They’re often expected to head extracurricular activities or help with events. This can add to the stress they feel, and they may become more depressed or anxious thinking about the responsibilities that come with those extra duties.
Teachers may have specific ways that they calm down and relax. While some might turn to yoga and similar methods of relaxation, others might turn to alcohol or drugs to ease their stress. This may help take the edge off initially, but it can turn into a serious problem.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Challenges in Education
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around 4.7% of educators reported heavy alcohol use within the month prior to being surveyed. Around 4.8% reported illicit drug use during the same time period. While these aren’t the highest rates reported among the surveyed professions, they’re high enough to show there’s a problem that must be addressed.
Educators who aren’t fully cognizant in the classroom can be a serious liability for a school. They may not be able to teach the children effectively. The students might also recognize the signs of inebriation in their teacher. Even if the teacher hasn’t turned to substances to numb their stress, they may still have problems keeping control of the classroom and educating the children in their charge in an appropriate and effective manner.
In a classroom with a teacher who is drunk, high or having other mental health issues, the students are likely going to suffer. This could mean they don’t get the education they need, but it can be much more serious. The teacher may not be able to address safety issues. This could lead to the kids suffering harm, which may occur from fights in the classroom, kids engaging in unsafe activities or an inability to respond to hazards or threats.
Many Educators Are Reluctant to Get Help
Teachers may be reluctant to get help for an addiction or mental health issue for a variety of reasons. They may worry about how it will impact their ability to get back into the classroom or that it might end their career.
Some may be concerned about the stigma that comes with having any sort of mental health condition. They may worry that people will look down on them once they realize there’s a problem.
Another issue teachers may worry about is the time they’ll have to take away from the classroom. Some might try to wait until school is out before seeking help, but this could allow their condition to worsen over the school year.
Once a teacher realizes their substance abuse problem or mental health condition is impacting their students, they may decide to seek help. This is an opportunity for them to help normalize the need to get help. Students may look up to teachers who get the help they need, and their parents may respect a teacher more for seeking help.
How Can Educators Get Help?
Educators can seek help from reputable mental health care facilities. When substance abuse is the issue, they may turn to a rehabilitation center. Some may offer specialized teacher therapy that allows educators to work on overcoming their addiction or mental health condition while learning to address the underlying issues.
There are several programs teachers might consider when they need help. Some may need intensive inpatient help at first, while others might be able to opt for an outpatient program. Teacher support groups can give educators an outlet to discuss the unique stressors they face and reassurance that they’re not alone in their struggles.
Discussing your situation with a mental health professional is the first step, as they can give you options and advise you on what may work best for your needs.
The important thing to remember is that anyone who needs help with a mental health condition, including a substance use disorder, should get that help quickly. It’s time to treat these disorders just like any other medical condition. There shouldn’t be any shame in turning to a trusted program for treatment.
Contact Us for Help Today
At FHE Health, we’re here to help educators get the mental health help they need. Whether you’re suffering from a substance use disorder, depression or any other mental health issue, our experienced counselors are to help. You can give us a call at (844) 299-0618 to learn more about our programs and find out how we can work with you to get the help you need.