How to identify mental health symptoms in your school

HR Team

August 18 2019
One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to estimates.

Given the pace of change across the sector and ongoing debates over workloads and resource pressures, employees in education are particularly likely to suffer from work-related stress and mental health issues.

Mental health matters

Although a demand-free school is not practical and governing bodies cannot eradicate all stress from the workplace, there are steps you can take to alleviate stress.

By implementing a Stress Management Policy, you can help to create an organisational culture in which employees feel that their wellbeing is considered a high priority.

A Stress Management Policy will outline your commitment to your employees’ wellbeing, your stress absence procedures and the responsibilities of the governing body, managers and senior management.


Breaking the taboo

Mental health issues are said to often derive from employees struggling in silence, which is why it is important that managers in your School routinely ask employees how they are doing and discuss their mental health. This helps to build their confidence and create a culture where employees talk openly about their mental health, allowing issues to be addressed as soon as they arise.

People sometimes worry that they require special skills to talk to an employee about their mental health, but you can approach conversations in the same way that you would daily in your role as a people manager, for example, by listening effectively, using your common sense and being approachable.

Line managers will already have a relationship with employees, so they are best placed to take the lead on this. It is advisable to discretely and confidentially liaise with HR from the outset, as they will be best informed and placed to ensure that the right support is in place.


Spotting mental health symptoms

Given how closely employees work together in education, changes may become noticeable that are symptomatic of underlying mental health issues.

Everyone’s experiences of mental health problems are different, so you should avoid making assumptions about employees’ mental health. There may be no outward signs of a problem, and equally, symptoms may not necessarily result from a mental health condition.

However, some common symptoms of mental health issues include:

Type of symptom Signs to look out for
  • Diminishing self-confidence
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Over-sensitivity to criticism
  • No longer outgoing or outspoken
  • Increasingly indecisive
  • Unexplained drops in performance
  • Difficulty concentrating, leading to a sudden increase in mistakes
  • Turning up to work late
  • Having sick days
  • Missing deadlines
  • Isolating themselves from group activities and social events
  • Lack of care of appearance
  • Visible tiredness
  • Weight loss 
  • More frequent illness
We can support you to prevent, manage and eliminate stress.


If you’re looking for support managing stress, occupational health referrals, and mental health, or would like to learn more about our model policies and letters, along with relevant training, please talk to us.

Combat absence management using your data

Accurately recording absences will allow you to identify trends and patterns for individuals and the school or trust as a whole – giving you the chance to explore the causes and consider plans to combat them.

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