Your emotional support bucket isn’t bottomless

February 2, 2021



The ATA is partnering with the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan to create It Takes a Village, a year-long campaign to support education workers in their mental health.

Conversations, preventions and supports key to managing emotional labour, compassion fatigue, burnout and stigma

A message from the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

As members of a school or district education community, your role is rooted in building, maintaining and strengthening relationships with students, parents, colleagues and leaders. Managing these relationships involves collaborating as you navigate different learning styles, student needs and now, how to work in a pandemic environment. All of this takes a sizable amount of emotional labour, defined as how you manage what you feel internally and how you express (or suppress) those feelings.

While emotional labour is often viewed as “part of the job” in the education sector, it can come at a personal cost. For instance, if there is an imbalance over a prolonged period between your internal feelings and those you express, emotional labour can negatively affect your work and personal life, leading to compassion fatigue or burnout.

Prior to 2020, there was limited research on the personal costs of emotional labour to Alberta’s education workers. What was clear, though, was that many within the educational community were experiencing more challenges and stress because of an increasingly complex work environment, such as diverse student needs and fewer resources.

This environment was resulting in high stress levels with demonstrated signs of compassion fatigue (emotional and physical exhaustion). For some, compassion fatigue felt like burnout because of their emotional investment in a student, class or the community, while for others it presented a serious struggle to find balance between work and home. This was the catalyst for a partnership between the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP), the ATA and the University of Calgary on a study to understand the relationship between emotional labour, compassion fatigue and burnout within our school communities.

Open, honest conversations

Phase one of the study, initiated in early 2020, included an online survey of more than 2,500 education workers. In late 2020, the partners shared their phase one findings in a report that addresses the realities of how educational workers are managing emotional labour, compassion fatigue and burnout. The report also notes that the stigma surrounding burnout, particularly in teachers, is a reality that requires us to have open, honest conversations about pressures facing this part of the workforce.

An important first step is to recognize that education workers are not superheroes and the bucket of emotional support that they provide to others is not bottomless. The report also highlights that professional development, self-care, positive workplace culture and mentorship can provide individuals with support and a network to lean on during difficult times.

We at ASEBP and the ATA are listening to how educational workers are feeling. In response, ASEBP has created a year-long mental health campaign entitled It Takes a Village, where we and our partners will support you in managing your well-being.

We’re all familiar with the adage “it takes a village to raise a child,” but it’s also important to have a village to help you get through life’s ups and downs. As part of your village, ASEBP provides benefits coverage for health services that can allow you to decompress, reset and take care of yourself. The health benefits that we provide include speaking with a registered psychologist, seeing a chiropractor or seeking nutritional advice through your Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). Plus, in the coming weeks and months, we will share information and resources, along with thoughts from specialists on mental health and wellness.

But for us to provide the information that you need most, we encourage you to reach out! Watch for polls, event invites and questions on our Facebook and Twitter (@ASEBP) channels where we encourage you to comment, check in and vote on what you want and need to help you manage any stress, anxiety and fear you’re experiencing. Our goal is to increase conversations and reduce mental health stigma, in turn, helping you on your path to healing.

Visit for more information about your ASEBP benefits and mental health supports and be sure to follow us on Facebook at #YourASEBP and #ThinkShareHeal and on Twitter at @ASEBP for the latest updates. ❚

It’s not easy

If you’re struggling to get through the day because you feel overwhelmed, angry, afraid or worried, and if “normal” feels like a thing of the past, know that you’re not alone in how you feel. While admitting to yourself and others that “I’m not okay” can be scary, it’s important to look to your village for support because no one should have to work through this alone.

Today is the day

Lean on your village — ASEBP, our partners, your community resources, coworkers, family and friends — for support, connection, hope and safe spaces to build, strengthen or maintain your mental health and well-being.


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