Case study: advancing teacher mental health in Indian government schoolsEmerging social sector professionals facilitate a wellbeing program with 2000 teachers in Sirohi, Rajasthan
In school mental health initiatives, educators are frequently left out.
With the rise of mental health challenges among young people across the world, many organizations are designing models to help children build social and emotional skills in school.
However, teachers have largely been left behind in these initiatives. Too many have overlooked a teacher’s significant role as a trusted adult in the lives of children whose communities are systemically marginalized. Particularly in India, where more than 100,000 government schools have only one teacher on staff (and many more with only a few), a single teacher’s capacity to show up and create compassionate and meaningful learning experiences has the potential to change hundreds of lives over the years.
In 2020, we launched a partnership with Kshamtalaya Foundation to design a contextualized wellbeing skills program for teachers that could be delivered through radio and audio. These brief sessions included lessons, stories, practices, and reflections that anyone, even with low tech access, could participate.
Centering educators’ experiences in design and implementation
Since 2020, thousands of teachers have participated in Hausla, sharing the audios with their family and friends during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In early evaluations, participants experienced reduced stress, more emotion awareness and regulation, and a sense of social connectedness in an era of isolation.
In 2022, Pinterest selected Brio as a Purpose Partner, and was a pioneering supporter in scaling up Hausla systematically through government partnership. In September 2022, an MOU was signed with the government of Sirohi in Rajasthan to run the program with 2000 educators in the district.
To meaningfully reach and support each educator, Kshamtalaya and Brio designed a fellowship program for emerging social sector professionals interested in integrating wellbeing into their respective fields. In October 2022, the inaugural cohort of fellows, or “Wellbeing-preneurs,” gathered to kick off the program and receive training on facilitating the Hausla program.
Starting in November, the Wellbeing-preneurs began facilitating the program in cohorts: launching vision-casting sessions with lead teachers, inviting teachers to join the program, and holding spaces for conversation and reflection together.
“Hausla perhaps came at a time when I needed it the most.”
Countless teachers shared their feedback and gratitude that the program provided them a way to learn meaningful supportive skills to navigate their inner experiences— particularly the difficult thoughts and emotions that arise in a challenging and frequently isolating job.
“In our current times it is very difficult to bring coherence between our personal and professional lives…. This program has helped me to find a solution, enjoy the simplicity of life and find peace,” an educator wrote to his facilitator.
We are truly excited to see the data that has emerged from the cohorts we have run with Hausla. In a pre/post evaluation, we found statistically significant improvements of medium effect size as defined by the following validated scales:
69% improved in wellbeing on the WHO-5 Wellbeing Index
59% improved in mindfulness on the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills
38% improved in resilience on the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale
This is really important: In communities that have few options for clinical mental health support, it is critical to address mental health at the community and population levels— at scale. What we learned from implementing Hausla through government partnership and training wellbeing facilitators is that it is possible to provide a broad group of participants the opportunity to build measurable mental wellbeing skills, and see statistically significant results for a large proportion of the participants.
These skills serve to support those who may be experiencing mental health challenges, while also reducing the risk of developing more critical conditions. The effectiveness of thoughtfully trained non-expert facilitators further underscores the possibility of using well-designed mental health promotion methods to reach much broader groups than a clinical-only treatment model.
What’s next for Hausla
There’s a growing interest in wellbeing in India, particularly in education and social sectors, as a critical component of meaningful work and lasting impact. Kshamtalaya has already secured partnerships with the government of Bihar, along with local NGOs, to run Hausla in 2024 and beyond with 5000 more teachers.
We truly believe that wellbeing skills can be transformative for individuals and communities facing adversity— and that mental health at the population level can cultivate more compassion and agency even in extraordinarily tough circumstances.
As one participant wrote, “I felt more energized, focused, and inspired to tackle the challenges of my day. I credit the Hausla program with helping me find more peace, happiness, and success in my life.”