Mental Health is the New Pandemic

May 16, 2023 at 02:08 pm by JC Bowman

When education leaders talk about lightening the load, it isn’t about doing less, it is about focusing efforts on what is most important. Stephen Covey made a career out of teaching others how to prioritize their time and tasks for greater effectiveness and efficiency.

Professional Educators of Tennessee has built a professional learning conference around helping our teachers and administrators learn ways to lighten their load as they navigate the ever-changing education landscape. We need a paradigm shift in education policy to give educators on the ground the right tools and policies which allow them the flexibility to adjust workloads to set all students on a path to success. Dr. Shamender Talwar, a crisis and social psychologist, who assisted families following the devastating recent school shooting in Nashville has called “mental health the new pandemic.”

Talwar told the Tennessee Ledger, “The stigma of mental health should be taken seriously. The new pandemic after COVID is mental health issues, mental health illness, and mental health situations. And Nashville is an eye-opener.” He adds, “[First Responders] are suffering post-trauma to what they’ve witnessed, and they need support as much as the parents.”

Public education needs to frequently revisit our mission, vision, and priorities. Most importantly, we must listen to our educators doing the actual work and hear their voices. They have been telling us for years the workload and stress are becoming impossible. The stress even impacts our students, and possibly their parents.

According to a Gallup survey: anger, stress, worry, and sadness have been on the rise globally for the past decade -- long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup, wrote, “Anxiety and depression disorders manifest in very different ways than physical illness does. While they can debilitate the individual, anxiety, and depression disorders also can debilitate teams, families, schools, and all institutions around them.”

Gallup suggests two solutions: First, by being aware of the crisis, getting in front of it, and working to prevent it. Second, take immediate action to address, treat, and if possible, reverse the condition if possible. We must be more aware of what is going on in our schools, identify problems and work to address them.

In Nashville after the Covenant school shooting, we witnessed a united community of police, fire, medical personnel, churches, politicians, volunteers, the media, and countless others respond to a crisis. Together they created a support system. We need a support system for our schools at the front end. We must lighten the load on our educators now. 

Dr. Talwar is addressing this critical subject for Professional Educators of Tennessee at the Leader U Conference on June 7th, at the Student Union Building at Middle Tennessee State University. Teachers, administrators, parents, and concerned citizens are welcome, but registration is required. You can register at

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee