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An Invitation to Integral Health

Note: This article was first published in Portuguese at Didaquê, TeachBeyond Brazil’s educational resource website. Click here to access the original article.

Every profession has its inherent challenges, difficulties, frustrations, and setbacks. Besides not being exempt from these, teachers are also susceptible, in many contexts, to health problems due to precarious working conditions, complex relationships with administrators, colleagues, and school community, and changes imposed on their role because of recent social transformations. If, in the past, the teacher’s main function was to facilitate the learning of his or her students, today teachers also participate in school management and planning and in meeting the demands of their students’ families. In other words, more and more is expected from teachers, but the necessary means and resources to accomplish these expectations are not always offered. Unfortunately, many times it is the teacher’s health that suffers the consequences of all this pressure.
 
According to surveys carried out in Brazil, the biggest cause (about one-sixth) of work absenteeism for education professionals is related to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, burnout syndrome, and suicide.[1] Even when the situation is not as serious, it is estimated that up to 55% of teachers suffer from MPDs (Minor Psychic Disorders).[2] These are common mental disorders such as insomnia, fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating that affect the teacher’s productivity and good performance, and that can lead to more serious problems. When it comes to physical health, the main problems reported by teachers themselves are related to back pain and voice (about 30% each).[3] As Christian teachers, we are not exempt from these problems, which raises some questions: What does the Christian faith have to say about health? And what resources does it offer us?
 
When it comes to health, we usually think about its physical aspect first, but according to the WHO (World Health Organization), health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”[4] The Bible, due to its antiquity, does not contain an equivalent word to our modern understanding of “health.” Medical knowledge at the time was quite limited, being restricted to what could be observed or felt by the patient. Furthermore, some biblical texts have been misinterpreted, spreading the mistaken notion that the Christian faith is against conventional medicine, or that if we have faith, we will never experience psycho-emotional problems. Unfortunately, we are all subject to these things, there is nothing wrong with getting the help you need. In the rest of this article, we’ll explore some biblical ideas that suggest that as Christian educators we should, indeed, take care of our health.
 
Though the Bible doesn’t have a specific word for health, it offers something even richer—the concept of shalomShalom is the Hebrew word commonly translated as ‘peace,’ but its meaning goes far beyond the absence of conflicts and wars. It refers to a deep sense of security, well-being, physical integrity, and wealth (both tangible and intangible) that comes from having a right relationship with God, with yourself, with others, and with the rest of creation. In Genesis 43:27, for example, Joseph “asked them [his brothers] how they were, and then said, ‘How is your aged father?’”[5] In Hebrew, the original language of the text, it says literally, “he asked them about shalom and said, ‘What about your father’s shalom?’” By asking this question, Joseph wants to know if his brothers and his father are doing well, not only in terms of their physical health, but also in terms of their health spiritually, emotionally, socially, economically, and so on.

Furthermore, the Bible offers us an integral vision of the human being. Contrary to the modern tendency to reduce the human being to its material dimension and to some philosophical and religious tendencies that overemphasize its spiritual dimension, Genesis 2:7 states that we are a “living being” made from the “dust of the ground” (material) and the “breath of life” (spiritual).[6] Therefore, biblical teaching invites us to make a commitment to the Creator that includes all of our being – spirit, soul, and body (1Thessalonians 5:23) – and to grow in our devotion to Him with all our heart, soul, understanding, and strength (Mark 12:30). This does not mean that we should draw solid lines to divide these aspects, but that whatever dimension of human life we come to identify, there we want to be healthy, or rather, there God wants us to experience shalom.
 
In future articles, we will address different aspects of teacher health: spiritual, psycho-emotional, and physical. Obviously, these dimensions are not the only ones, nor will they be dealt with exhaustively. However, we hope that they will serve as encouragement and build awareness for all those who work in education or who care about the teachers of our children, neighbors, and friends.

Raphael Haeuser
Educational Consultant
TeachBeyond, Brazil
 


[1] Approximate data, based on the article by GASPARINI, Sandra Maria; BARRETO, Sandhi Maria; ASSUNÇÃO, Ada Ávila. “O professor, as condições de trabalho e os efeitos sobre sua saúde” (Teachers, their working conditions and the effects on their health), in Education and Research, vol. 31, no. 2, p. 189–199, 2005 and in the SINPRO/RS digital booklet organized by MONTEIRO, Janine, “Saúde/Adoecimento Mental dos Professores da Rede Privada do Rio Grande do Sul: como avaliar e cuidar” (Health/Mental Illness of Private Network Teachers of Rio Grande do Sul: how to assess and care).

[2] According to the article “Pesquisa revela dados da saúde mental dos professores do ensino privado” (Research reveals data on the mental health of private education teachers). Available at: www.sinprors.org.br/comunicacao/noticias/pesquisa-revela-dados-da-saude-mental-dos-professores-do-ensino-privado. Accessed on: 15 Jan. 2020.

[3] According to research carried out by SINPRO/RS, mentioned in ROSA, Stela. “Saúde do professor e ambiente escolar” (Teacher’s health and school environment). Available at: www.extraclasse.org.br/saude/2006/10/saude-do-professor-e-ambiente-escolar. Accessed on: 15 Jan. 2020.

[4] World Health Organization. Constitution. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution

[5] Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
[6] See Genesis 2:7, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®


Photo Credits:
Teacher & Students by FATEB Kinshasa Academy

04 Nov 21
by Guest