Book Review: Supporting Staff Mental Health in your School by Amy Sayer

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A guest review by Lisa Lea-Weston of Talking Heads – Supervision in Education.

When I first sat down to read this I was unsure if I could bear it. As a mental health professional, who has worked with schools in this capacity for over 15 years, I feared it would be very generalised and possibly not very helpful or practical. It is the opposite. The book is rooted in school relationships and the reality of a school environment. It is nuanced in its offerings and challenges but in a grounded way that will make sense to any educator. I like the way Amy offers up data and statistics that cannot be argued with and then repeatedly balances this out with national support that is available and then focuses back in on case studies to further prove her point…which is that staff mental health is completely connected to the education of children. If staff are not ok and dysregulated or absent then this impacts every aspect of school life.

I think that practical examples that are obvious to some are not to others. For example, really highlighting why timing and place of conversations are key. Privacy is key. Avoiding shame is key etc. These things are obvious if you think about or work in the mental health field but the culture in many schools is still not very open to acknowledging the increase in pressures or their impact. This is even more current in the pandemic. How far kindness goes to making a difference in a team,  and yet many factors must be in place for a team to be able to be supportive in this way.

Amy risking her professional vulnerability is a strong thread throughout the book. It was an easy, grounded and thought-provoking read. I have found that even though one part of me responded by feeling a kind of despair that the nuances of caring, human interaction need to be “taught” via this book, the undoubted reality is that they do. It is on my list of books that I share with Heads in supervision when they are wanting to think about staff mental health and wellbeing from the place it really needs to be thought about rather than the fluff on top of CPD or yoga sessions. It highlights how these “interventions” are perceived as tokens when there is an absence within a school culture of care, kindness and openness to really working to support each other as a team in school.

Read this book. It is not rocket science and it is written in a wonderfully pragmatic way. The only aspect I would like to see threaded through in the next release of this book is more information on therapies that are available other than the NHS. Distress does not always respond to CBT – other ways of working are available!

Supporting Staff Mental Health in your School by Amy Sayer is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers