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Mental Health: Spot the signs of stress

Stress, anxiety and depression can have a massive impact in schools. It affects Headteachers, staff, senior leaders and pupils alike, as well as Governors. Staff work/life balance and pupil study/life balance are imperative to their individual wellbeing.

As I am sure you are aware, Governors have 3 core functions:

•      Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos & strategic direction

•      Holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils and the performance management of the staff

•      Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure money is well spent

It may surprise you to know that mental health in schools impacts on all these 3 core functions but the signs that someone is struggling can often be difficult to spot.


Stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it's real or imagined—the body's defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the "stress response." and is an adverse reaction(s) experienced to too much (or too little) pressure.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview….. or an Ofsted inspection!!

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.


Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong –it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn't a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together". The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery. It is easy to say the symptoms will go away but they may not and you may need to seek help.

Increased pupil or staff absence is just one of the signs that there could be a problem with mental health issues within the school but do you know what signs to look for in yourself or in others?

Stress, anxiety and depression can manifest in many different ways here are just 3 of them

Sound familiar?

If you are aware there is a problem, what do you do about it? Sweep it under the carpet (which is what most people do) or are you proactive?

You may feel nervous or unsure about what to do or say but there many ways you can offer a helping hand. We don’t expect Governors to be fully aware of this subject and we can provide training in a number of ways including in-house/classroom training sessions, workshops and webinars etc.

I hope you found this article useful and remember – NEVER be afraid to ask for help.

Lisa Billingham

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