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Teachers turning to alcohol to cope with work, survey finds

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Teachers are turning to antidepressants and alcohol to cope with work pressures, a survey suggests.

More than four in five (84%) teachers experienced more work-related stress in the last year,  according to a poll by the NASUWT teaching union.

The survey, of 11,754 NASUWT members in the UK between October and December last year, suggests 86% of teachers believe that their job has adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months.

The findings have been released during the union’s annual conference in Harrogate in Yorkshire over the Easter weekend.

Delegates at the NASUWT conference will debate a motion on Sunday which calls for suicide prevention training for all school leaders, and fully funded mandatory mental health training in all schools and colleges.

Too many teachers are having their health destroyed and others are leaving the profession in a bid to save their sanity

Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary

The motion warns of a “rise in suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts within the teaching profession” and it says the union is concerned the number will rise.

It adds the pressures of the job are leading to “a mental health emergency” within the profession and teachers’ health is reaching “a crisis point”.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of teachers increased their alcohol intake in the past year because of work, while 12% reported using or increasing their reliance on antidepressants, according to the NASUWT poll.

Among the members questioned, 3% said they had self-harmed in the last 12 months because of work.

It comes after Ofsted has come under greater scrutiny in the past year after the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Mrs Perry took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading, Berkshire, from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Another motion, which was passed by NASUWT delegates at the annual conference on Friday, called on the union executive to work with inspectorates across the UK to provide guidance on how welfare and wellbeing can be further prioritised and inspection can be seen as a supportive process.

It is about getting through the day rather than enjoying it

NASUWT member who responded to the survey

More than two in three (68%) teachers believe that their job has adversely affected their physical health in the last 12 months, according to an NASUWT poll.

A teacher who responded to the survey said they had vomited “with stress before work” and had cried at work due to “badly behaved students” which left them unable to teach a class.

Another said: “My energy levels have never been this low before. I have never felt so anxious and have very little confidence in myself.

“I feel as though my bucket is full most of the time at work and that I maybe can’t deal with challenging pupils as well as I would normally.”

Another respondent said: “It is about getting through the day rather than enjoying it.”

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Nobody should be brought to the brink of ending their own life because of their job.

“We need a two-pronged approach to addressing the epidemic of mental ill health among the teaching profession, which both tackles the factors driving work-related stress, while also putting in place greater support systems for teachers and school leaders.”

Dr Roach suggested that the picture on teacher wellbeing had “got worse”.

He added:  “It is clear we also need better welfare support in our schools and colleges to help teachers’ manage their mental health and deal with what is an incredibly demanding job.

“The status quo is not an option. Too many teachers are having their health destroyed and others are leaving the profession in a bid to save their sanity.

“There is no intrinsic reason why teaching should have such high levels of burnout. Things can and should be different and we need the next government to work with us to restore teaching to a profession where teachers can thrive, not just struggle to survive.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “We recognise the extraordinary work that headteachers, teachers and other staff in schools provide, and we take their wellbeing very seriously.

“Our Education Staff Wellbeing Charter ensures that staff wellbeing policy is integrated within schools’ culture alongside the expansion of our £2 million investment to provide professional supervision and counselling to school and college leaders.”

For mental health support, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.