Men’s Health Week: Supporting Men in Teaching

During Men’s Health Week headteacher Darren Morgan asks if it is time that we move to a place where men feel like they can share what is causing them stress and anxiety.


Let us all pledge to be open about the times when we feel threatened, are struggling to cope, or do not know how to manage a situation – let us stop ‘manning up’ and judging others for showing their vulnerability.

The tipping point

In the recent Teacher Wellbeing Index, a staggering 68% of men in teaching felt stressed from work. A further 40% experienced insomnia and difficulty sleeping, and 42% reported working in a culture that negatively affects staff mental health and wellbeing. My fear is that we are entering a crises point at all levels of education and it will take a serious, and potentially ultimate casualty of unspoken stress before we genuinely take proactive and reactive action to help ourselves and others.

The good news is that we can influence the direction of these shocking statistics – both as individuals and on a cultural level. Below I consider some of the factors that cause highly debilitating stress levels for so many men in teaching.

Understanding Personalities – ‘Bubu’

The key is understanding personality. At my school, we focus on a strategy entitled ‘Bubu.’  The second ‘bu’ is about teamwork and the importance of all members of the school, it stands for ‘be us.’ However, the first ‘bu’ means to ‘be you’ and is what we are dealing with today. In its simplest form ‘be you’ stands for individuality and an acceptance that we are all different; some are extroverts, others are introverts and the rest are somewhere in-between. 

We have to stop pigeon-holding educationalists into personality types that we deem to be necessary. We have to embrace all of our strengths, accept all of our weaknesses and discuss all of our fears. Not only fears that are generally accepted by others. Get them out, and let us discuss them. It is only when we start doing this that that we will truly develop non-judgmental empathy. By embracing this new philosophy, we will discover that most of us are in a similar boat and a national sigh of relief will be heard across our profession.

For men in leadership

School leaders are (shock and horror) human beings. In some areas, bullying in the workplace and online is having a detrimental effect on our mental wellbeing. How can we profess to be in a caring vocation when some are unashamedly cruel to fellow members of it? Many teachers and senior leaders are having a crises of mental health due to this troubling culture seeping through to some parts of our profession.

However, school leaders have to play their part. We need to take off our superhero cloaks and begin to honestly discuss through the appropriate channels what it is that is causing our sleeplessness and ruining our cherished times with our families (although my football team also plays its part in this). Many school leaders end up in lonely positions because of the stance they have taken with their staff in a moralistic and sacrificial bid to improve standards. 

What is the solution? I am afraid I do not have it!  The person who does hold the key to the answer is yourself. Of course, support is out there and we must remember that it is okay to ask for help. Education Support can help guide you towards a better place, but you have to acknowledge the problem and want to take the strides in the direction towards a solution.


Building in reflective practice

One of the ways to encourage men in teaching to talk more openly about mental health problems could be through building supervision into our professional practice; which is commonplace within various other professions. There is much discussion about the benefits of supervision and reflective practice for teachers; this could take the form of 1-2-1’s with a line manager or peers. Starting supervision early may help normalise conversations around men’s mental health in particular, creating a more supportive, caring and positive school culture. Supervision also promotes regular communication which can help spot issues earlier and work to resolve them sooner.

Finding new strategies

During Covid, my school developed an approach of ‘Be Healthy’ (linked to Bubu).  This focused on the importance of physical, emotional and social health, particularly during such worrying times.

At stressful times, and, depending on your personality, it is at least one of these areas that suffers first. The first area I wish to discuss is physical health. Physical health is important during all times, but particularly during times when you are feeling low. Whilst I am a full advocate of the importance of a good curry or chocolate bar there are many for whom fast food eating is the consequence of stress – resulting in low energy levels and if sustained, low general health. Therefore elevating a growing problem.

During lockdown, I developed the habit of beginning each day with a short run and trying to walk in the country each night. For me this has been life changing. I hated running, and I still hate running – however, the physical exercise helps me to feel more alive. My daily (and usually rainy) walk outside allows me to enjoy the fresh air and the wonderful sights that our country has to offer. However, at the end of the day it is your choice alone; there will be many reasons why you cannot do these, or other simple and stress-reducing activities.  A horse can be led to water so to speak!

Secondly, for many, social health takes a hit during stressful periods in our lives.  Spending quality time with family, friends, your partner or colleagues makes a difference.  How many of you forego plans because you are stressed or are too busy! Again, this is your choice.  Spending times with loved ones help us to feel valued and alive – it is not something that should be sacrificed because of work, or sacrificed because of those who really do not deserve these concessions to our personal life and happiness.

However you feel and whatever you are going through remember that whilst this is a wonderful job, at the end of the day it is important to gain a sense of perspective and realise that it is merely a job.  No matter how low you feel you are enduring a phase of your life, it may feel dark and helpless but it will pass and a new phase will arrive. Be kind to yourself.

Darren’s tips for teachers who are struggling

Focus on your emotional health (it’s as important as physical health)

Emotional health doesn’t mean feeling happy all the time; but it can help to take notice of what is going on inside your mind. Take a look at Men’s Health Forum’s Man MOT for the Mind - an interactive manual that boosts mental wellbeing for Men’s health Week.

Stop ‘manning up’

We all need to take off our superhero cloaks and begin to honestly discuss through the appropriate channels why we are struggling. Accepting the issue is crucial, including if the issue is something that you may well feel embarrassed about.  You are not alone. 

Don’t let your physical health slip

After a bad day at school it’s common to turn to unhealthy food.Whilst there is no problem with a little comfort food, too much makes a bad situation worse. Similarly, for many, it becomes impossible to motivate oneself to exercise during difficult periods in their life.  Exercise doesn’t have to be exhausting - regular walks outside have a myriad of positive effects, both physically and emotionally.

Remember your ‘social health’

Often social health is the first casualty during difficult times.  Making that effort to meet your friends for a beer, or playing with your children in the garden is sacrificed due to one’s emotional state. It is a tragedy that many relationships break down during difficult times in men’s lives. Never forget you may be replaceable at work, but never to your friends and family.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help

It might feel completely out of your comfort zone to ask for help. Whilst you may feel at your lowest ebb or that everyone is doing better - it is not the reality - many are in similar positions. Speak to someone, do not make the judgement that they will judge you. By opening up you can get a lot in return – and it does not have to be someone in your immediate circle if you do not feel comfortable confiding in them.


Education Support offer a free helpline for teachers and education staff who are struggling. It is confidential and available 24/7 on 08000 562561. They also provide free, specialist articles, videos and guides to help teachers and education staff which are expert-led and easy to access.

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