Supporting Mental Health & Wellness for Wyoming Students and Educators: Southwest Region Mental Health & Wellness Champion Sunny Schuler

In today’s world, where social-emotional and behavioral challenges are increasingly common in public schools, both students and educators are navigating a new landscape in mental health. To avoid burnout and create classrooms where students can thrive, we know that educators need to prioritize their own mental health. Evanston EA member and Southwest Region Mental Health Champion, Sunny Schuler, shared her insights with WEA News on the importance of training education employees to take charge of their mental health and wellness.

Sunny Schuler’s Journey: From Interest to Impact

Sunny Schuler’s journey as a mental health and wellness champion began with a genuine desire to support her peers. “I was really interested in learning more about effective ways of handling mental health and wellness issues that educators face so that I could be more helpful to those I work with or talk with in our local association,” she explains. This drive has given her numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth, enabling her to support teachers and staff through her work on the Southwest Region Mental Health & Wellness Cadre. Schuler’s commitment underscores her belief in the value of understanding and addressing mental health needs for both students and educators in our public schools.

The Post-COVID Landscape: Straining Mental Health & Wellness

Schuler has seen firsthand the need for an increased focus on student and educator mental health and wellness in recent years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. “Working in this field has turned what used to be teaching content and connecting with students into having to wear about 75 different hats throughout the year, and we are not equipped to do so.”

The pandemic has worsened existing pressures, leaving many educators feeling constantly frustrated and inadequate. Meanwhile, a generation of students faces unprecedented mental health challenges, creating a perfect storm straining mental health in Wyoming schools. Schuler believes this situation has reached a tipping point and hopes her work on the Mental Health & Wellness Cadre will support her fellow public education employees, who often must navigate these complexities without adequate support or resources.

The Need for Proactive Mental Health & Wellness Training

For Schuler, the importance of mental health and wellness training for educators cannot be overstated. “We just don’t get this type of training—and if we do—it’s a reactive type of training,” she notes. Schuler believes proactive and comprehensive training is essential to equip educators with the tools to help themselves, their colleagues, and their students.

Many mental health issues remain unspoken or are avoided due to stigma, perceived as weaknesses. Schuler believes that open dialogue and effective coping strategies are crucial. “The more we talk openly and have effective options for dealing with mental health issues, the better,” she says. This approach not only aids those who are struggling but also fosters a supportive environment where mental health is prioritized.

Building Positive Relationships in Education

Despite the myriad challenges, Schuler remains steadfast in her belief in the value of working in education. “I would still argue that working in education and building positive relationships within our schools is the best profession around,” she says. However, maintaining this positive outlook has become increasingly difficult amid mounting pressures.

To move forward, Schuler advocates for greater awareness and empathy towards each other’s struggles. “Having more awareness and empathy towards each other regarding how hard things can be is a small step in the right direction,” she concludes. By fostering a culture of understanding and support, the educational community can better navigate the complexities of mental health and wellness.

In essence, Sunny Schuler’s dedication as a mental health and wellness champion highlights the urgent need for comprehensive support systems within education. Her efforts serve as a beacon of hope and a call to action for all educators to prioritize mental health and wellness in their daily interactions and professional development.