Public school teachers’ perceptions about mental health

OBJECTIVE To examine public school teachers’ perceptions about general health and mental health, and the way in which they obtained this information. METHODS Qualitative research was conducted with 31 primary and secondary school teachers at a state school in the municipality of Sao Paulo, SP, Southeastern Brazil, in 2010. The teachers responded to a questionnaire containing open-ended questions about mental health and general health. The following aspects were evaluated: Teachers’ understanding of the terms “health and “mental health,” the relevance of the need for information on the subject, the method preferred for obtaining information, their experience with different media regarding such matters, and perceptions about the extent to which this available information is sufficient to support their practice. The data were processed using the Qualiquantisoft software and analyzed according to the Discourse of the Collective Subject technique. RESULTS From the teachers’ perspective, general health is defined as the proper physiological functioning of the body and mental health is related to the balance between mind and body, as a requirement for happiness. Most of the teachers (80.6%) showed great interest in acquiring knowledge about mental health and receiving educational materials on the subject. For these teachers, the lack of information creates insecurity and complicates the management of everyday situations involving mental disorders. For 61.3% of the teachers, television is the medium that provides the most information on the topic. CONCLUSIONS The data indicate that there is little information available on mental health for teachers, showing that strategies need to be developed to promote mental health in schools.