One district’s efforts to improve mental well-being of all staff

Recognizing the importance of addressing employee mental well-being, Chula Vista Elementary School District is moving to improve teacher and staff services on campus for its 3,000 staff comprising teachers, administrators, bus drivers, custodians and more.

Through a new partnership with Campus Clinic — a preventative healthcare platform that works with schools to provide primary care solutions for students and staff — two counseling sessions will be provided at no cost to faculty and staff at participating schools. This will help staff members understand and act on any indicators of anxiety or depression, then seek help finding a long-term wellness plan, officials said.

“We want to ensure our staff members always have access to the mental health support they need,” Jason Romero, Chula Vista ESD assistant superintendent, said in a statement. “We are excited to see how Campus Clinic will connect our teachers, classified staff, administrators, and other staff members with easy-to-access services, including wellness assessments and therapy.”

Chula Vista isn’t the only school district to face the growing problem of staff mental health concerns. Teachers are currently listed as one of the top occupations in the 2022 Gallup Poll when it comes to occupational burnout. Nearly half of all K-12 teachers report feeling very often or always burned out at work.

CSBA’s recent survey report of education leaders across the state, Beyond the spreadsheets: Insights from California education leaders on utilizing COVID-19 relief funding, found that high levels of burnout and stress were top concerns for district leaders. Participants rated their biggest staff challenges as burnout at 94 percent and filling open positions at 91 percent.

While mental health among staff has improved, it continues to be a challenge, particularly as it relates to retention, according to surveys from UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools and the RAND Corporation. Additionally, a 2022 report from the Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Collaborative found that teachers reported higher symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder than healthcare workers.

These challenges extend beyond the classroom. A national survey of 670 public schools conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics found 49 percent of public schools reported at least one non-teaching staff vacancy as of January 2022, including custodial, nutrition and transportation staff.

When schools are supportive of staff well-being, student outcomes have been shown to improve while staff attrition often decreases.

In Chula Vista ESD, leaders realized there was a link between heightened staff turnover and a growing need for better staff care — specifically mental health support services. Throughout the country, nearly half of all K-12 educators report in a 2022 Gallup Poll feeling very often or always burned out at work.

“On-campus healthcare should be accessible and convenient to everyone, including all of the adults who are critical to the school community,” said Campus Clinic President Thomas Shaffer. “We simply cannot overlook the growing need for staff mental health resources. Our goal is to make therapy and other services more accessible than ever before, especially for teachers.”

Students in Chula Vista ESD will also be able to use Campus Clinics services to help identify and treat anxiety and depression before they escalate to high-risk or crisis-level attention.

The California Department of Education has made available resources and ways to create a community of support for school staff and administrators here. More information on the importance of supporting staff mental health and well-being is available here.