Opinion Former Article

Neglect of teachers' mental and physical health a national scandal, says NASUWT

Three in ten teachers (30%) say they have turned to medication in the last 12 months to deal with the physical and mental toll their job is taking on them, a survey by the NASUWT - The Teachers’ Union, has found.

More than four in ten (41%) have seen a doctor or medical professional, while 15% say they have undergone counselling.

These findings come as more than three quarters (78%) of teachers report they have experienced an increase in workplace stress over the past 12 months, with more than four out of five (84%) saying their job has impacted negatively on their health and wellbeing over the last year.

Nearly two thirds (65%) of teachers also feel their job has adversely affected their mental health and over half (54%) feel it has affected their physical health in the last 12 months.

The survey also found that in the last 12 months as a result of their job:
·         77% have experienced anxiety;
·         85% have suffered from loss of sleep;
·         22% have increased their use of alcohol;
·         9% have suffered a relationship breakdown;
·         3% have self-harmed.

The survey findings also show that 56% of teachers say their job satisfaction has declined in the last 12 months. Nearly two thirds (65%) have seriously considered leaving the teaching profession in the last year.

Teachers’ mental health and wellbeing has been balloted as the top motion at the NASUWT’s Annual Conference and Representatives will today debate a motion highlighting the increasing number of teachers suffering serious mental health problems as a result of workplace bullying and the pressure of workload.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“These figures are an appalling catalogue of dedicated and committed teachers suffering damage to their physical and mental health.

“It is clear that too many employers are failing to exercise their duty of care for the health and welfare of their employees and are presiding over mental and physical burnout.

“It is nothing short of a national scandal that those who are dedicating themselves to giving a future to children and young people are seeing their own lives damaged by the failure of government and employers to take their health and welfare seriously.

“The time has come to end the culture of the “anything goes” style of management where any adverse impact on teachers is regarded as collateral damage.”

NASUWT Press Office contacts:
Lena Davies 07867 392 746
Sarah Cull 07920 711 069

Notes to editors
The online survey attracted over 4,080 responses from NASUWT members during February and March 2018.

Teachers who responded to the survey were asked about their views and experiences on stress, wellbeing and job satisfaction. A selection of comments is below.

“I’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition linked to work-related stress and anxiety.”

“I had a breakdown and started anti-depressants, I had little time off work and felt under pressure to return quickly. Workload and hours are a stressful situation.”

“I suffer from chest pains, low mood, crying, and feeling like I can't cope.”

“I find myself physically shaking, feeling sick and sometimes being physically sick whilst getting ready to go to work.”

“I struggle with regular panic attacks - several per day, inability to sleep, inability to function properly at work, and exhaustion. I have had to resign my post due to the effect it has been having on my mental health (severe anxiety/depression).”

“I no longer feel positive about my job. I plan to try a different career after 23 years of teaching.”

“I’m more irritable, and less efficient. I’m currently on anti-depressants due to the work load and stress of my job. My relationship with my long term partner also broke down due to my job.”

“I have regular periods of depression and struggling to cope/feel like I cannot escape this now ridiculous job.”

“I have considered taking my own life because the stress has got that much that I could not cope with everything.”

“I have been off with illnesses which led to me being hospitalised. I believe the illnesses have been accelerated by work load and stress from constant observation, changes in teaching and bully tactics from management.”

The NASUWT’s Annual Conference is being held at the ICC in Birmingham from 30 March-2 April.

A copy of the motion which will be debated is below.

Russ Walters to move,
Daniel Perriman to second:
Conference notes with deep concern that the majority of teachers report that their mental health and careers are blighted by bullying employers who fail to respect the professional voice of teachers.
Conference further notes with alarm the increased incidence of depression, anxiety and teacher suicide which is exacerbated by poor management practice and lack of support.
Conference endorses the work of the National Executive in continuing to campaign to:
(i) challenge the stigma associated with teachers’ mental health;
(ii) support teachers to maintain their careers;
(iii) promote mental health first aid training in schools;
(iv) challenge discriminatory employment practices and
(v) ensure governments and administrations maintain the provisions of the Equality Act following Brexit to protect teachers with mental health problems.
Conference further calls upon the National Executive to:
(a) increase the provision of the Union’s mental health first aid training programme for all members including specific training for leadership members;
(b) produce best practice guides and exemplar materials for employers and employees and
(c) carry out further research into the extent of mental health issues in the teaching profession.
(Executive, Birmingham, Cheshire West and Chester, Northampton)

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