Warning over teachers' mental health

Written by: Moira Sharkey | Published:
Taking a stand: Teachers vote on a motion during the NASUWT’s annual conference in Cardiff (Photo: Simon Boothe/NASUWT)

More than six out of 10 teachers admit their job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months, new figures reveal.

A survey by the NASUWT found that 67 per cent of teachers had some mental health issue as a result of their job.

More than three quarters, (78 per cent) reported experiencing work-related anxiousness, 84 per cent sleeplessness, and 33 per cent poor health.

The union's annual conference in Cardiff was told of a bleak picture of life in teaching and general secretary Chris Keates spoke of a profession which is stressed, demoralised and exhausted.

More than one in 10 (11 per cent) reported that the strain of their job has led to relationship breakdown and a quarter (25 per cent) reported increased use of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine to help them cope. Worryingly, nearly two per cent said they had self-harmed as a result of work-related pressures.

The conference heard how poor management, excessive workload including emails at 11pm had put additional stress on teachers.

Speaking about poor management practices, NASUWT National Executive member Wendy Exton described an incident in one school in which a "book snatch" had been ordered and teachers' marking was remarked and graded. A league table of marking was then published in the staffroom.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of those who had responded to the NASUWT survey have seen a doctor in the last 12 months as a result of work-related physical or mental health problems, over a third (37 per cent) have taken medication, 13 per cent have undergone counselling and nearly five per cent have been admitted to hospital.

The findings, from the NASUWT's annual Big Question survey, were released after teachers at the conference passed a motion condemning the lack of support for teachers with mental health issues.

Ms Keates said: "These figures make frightening and disturbing reading. Teachers' health and wellbeing has deteriorated dramatically over the last four years.

"The health and wellbeing of the workforce has never been a priority for this coalition government.

"Its denigration of teachers, relentless attacks on their pay and conditions of service, the punitive accountability regime and the coalition's refusal to address the increasing culture of command and control management, combined with its contempt for health, safety and welfare provisions, has taken a dreadful toll on teachers.

"The scale of the problem is unprecedented. Teachers are being broken and damaged and their lives blighted and it is clear where the responsibility lies."

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