Spotting the signs of poor mental health and wellbeing | Education Support
Coronavirus update: We continue to be here to provide mental health and wellbeing support to all education staff.

Spotting the signs of poor mental health and wellbeing

Often the signs of low wellbeing or resilience are there whether in terms of the individual or for the team. If the signs of stress, anxiety and poor mental health can be spotted early this can allow teachers and education staff to get help and so not have to get to a point where they become physically sick, burnt out or have to be signed off with stress. Prevention is better for individuals and the school or college.

Below are some of the signs that can be indicators of low wellbeing. Some of the signs below are also behavioural responses to difficult emotions. Russell Brand (a famous comedian with former drug addiction) talks about the idea that we all have our drug addictions i.e. we all do things to manage difficult feelings. Some of these things are positive like going for a run, other physical activities, having a bath or laughing with friends. Others can have more negative consequences like drinking, drugs, over or under eating, and social media. These behaviours can also be a sign that people are suffering.

Individual signs

  • Changes in behaviour e.g. being very sociable and then not talking
  • Low mood
  • Tearful
  • Emotional outbursts e.g. anger and other heightened emotions like frustration, stress, anxiety, panic attacks intense irritation.
  • Physical symptoms e.g. IBS, headaches, colds, psoriasis
  • Tiredness or poor sleep
  • Over or under eating
  • Errors of thinking e.g. catastrophising (that will be terrible, awful, or a nightmare), all or nothing thinking (that will never work), labelling or generalising (I am stupid, I failed, I can’t do maths), blaming self or others (I mucked up really badly or it was all their fault)
  • Not having breaks
  • Using alcohol, drugs or other addictive behaviour
  • Quality of work or performance goes down
  • Not able to concentrate

Team signs

  • Moaning and complaining
  • Conflict
  • Lack of team working
  • Cliques, gossiping and lack of support for each other
  • People not wanting to take on tasks
  • Staff not coming up with ideas or problem solving
  • Blame culture and staff critical of one another
  • High absenteeism levels
  • Low morale

What to do next?

It is really important to note that signs are only the tip of the iceberg; they are the things you see or hear people do or say. However, they could also be a sign of many other things and so need to be addressed through a conversation to see whether the signs are to do with wellbeing or something else (see How to talk to colleagues about mental health and wellbeing).

If you are very concerned about someone’s mental health and wellbeing because they are at a crisis point e.g. if they are having a panic attack, cannot get out of bed, are weeping, seeing or hearing things that you cannot, they need to get professional help: