Announcing the launch of Teachers Health Foundation

  • The need for mental health services from Teachers Health Fund among younger members has doubled in the past five years.
  • Teachers Health Fund has launched the Teachers Health Foundation to improve teachers’ health and wellbeing by providing funding to support medical research.
  • The first Foundation grant has been awarded to the Hunter Institute of Mental Health whose research focuses on early career teachers.

The education sector ranks number two for mental stress claims in Australia, something the Teachers Health Fund is hoping to change with a new foundation and the help of a leading Newcastle research institution1.

Teachers Health Chief Executive Officer, Brad Joyce said mental health issues are a growing challenge for the education community with the demand for mental health services doubling over the past five years among younger members in the 24-29 age group.

"The Teachers Health Foundation has been established to fund research into conditions teachers most commonly experience, such as mental health issues. As the only private health insurer exclusively for education, the Foundation is the Teachers Health Fund’s commitment to doing more for teachers," explained Mr Joyce.

Mental health issues not only place an increasing burden on the health care system they can result in the loss of teachers, place financial pressure on schools to find replacements and ultimately, negatively affect the quality educational experiences for school children and teacher-student relationships.

"The Foundation aims to help us better understand the specific challenges teachers face as well as identify potential solutions," said Mr Joyce.

The Hunter Institute of Mental Health is one of the first Teachers Health Foundation research recipients. They have been awarded a $50,000 grant to help fund research to better understand how relationships and peer support can positively impact early career teachers’ wellbeing, resilience and retention.

"This research looks at how we can help one of the most vulnerable teacher groups - those who are just starting their career. They can face challenges such as self-doubt, time pressure and excessive workload which often results in burnout, emotional exhaustion and low levels of retention," said Mr Joyce.

Teachers Health Foundation grant recipient Dr Gavin Hazel from Hunter Institute of Mental Health said evidence shows attrition rates for early career teachers in western countries is around 25 per cent - 40 per cent within the first five years2.

"Through our research we hope to understand how positive relationships and guidance can lower levels of burnout, improve retention rates and increase job satisfaction.

"We are aiming to improve the capacity of teachers, schools, and the education system to provide support to early career teachers' wellbeing and recommend evidenced-based strategies to improve or strengthen their resilience and wellbeing," he added.

Mr Joyce said once the research was completed, the next step would be to work with the Teachers Health's key partners to establish high quality care programs to address teachers' needs.

"To that end, Teachers Healthcare Services, one of our businesses, has established a partnership with Hunter Primary Care. This will place a greater focus on helping our Hunter region based members with complex and chronic illnesses such as diabetes," he explained.

The Foundation has also awarded a second grant to the Hunter Medical Research Institute for a study on the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

"We're proud to be launching this Foundation in Newcastle with two research institutions from the Hunter region and Hunter Primary Care as we strengthen our relationship with the Newcastle community," said Mr Joyce.

Teachers Health Fund is also a proud supporter of the 2015 Teachers Health Fund Principal Health & Wellbeing Report which will be launched in early December.

Additional articles:

1 Safe Work Australia April 2013 Incidence of Accepted Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Stress in Australia.
2 Johnson et al. 2010