Anxiety, stress and depression among teachers under pressure

Half of teachers in Scotland in a survey said that the stress of the classroom is taking a toll on their mental wellbeing, revealing the scale of depression and anxiety in the profession.

As reported in the Herald newspaper, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland found that a high number of teachers believed the pressures of the job had led them to experience episodes of psychological and emotional distress, with 51% saying that the felt it had exacerbated an existing mental health problem such as depression or anxiety or to develop symptoms.

Alarm over teachers’ mental health comes as pupils appear to be struggling more than ever with their own wellbeing: a majority (71%) of teachers said they were also worried that they lacked the training to help them address mental health concerns with pupils, and only 13 per cent have received Mental Health First Aid training.

Nearly all teachers – 85% – said mental health training would help them look after their own emotional well-being as well as that of their pupils.

Toni Giugliano, policy manager at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “Our research also shows that around half of teachers have struggled with their own mental health due to the pressures of their job. It’s clear that investing in training will not only benefit pupils but will help teachers look after their own emotional health. Stress in adults can often leak into young minds, which is why addressing teacher mental health is equally important.”

A spokesman for the largest Scottish teaching union, the EIS, said: “In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of teachers experiencing mental health issues including a marked increase in stress-related mental health conditions. Reductions in teacher numbers and cuts to support staff have heaped additional workload pressures on teachers, with serious implications for their wellbeing.”

Counsellors in East Sussex would recognise many of these findings from Scotland as being relevant locally. More teachers – and teaching assistants and administrative staff from schools are coming forward for therapy for the stresses and emotional problems associated with their jobs. The problems seem to be most prevalent in academies where the relentless pressure of targets and long working hours take their toll.

Fortunately, the more enlightened academy chains do provide at least a few sessions of therapy for their staff with local counsellors. But all the educational employers, whether academies or local authorities,need to be doing more to look after the emotional well-being of all those for whom they are responsible, whether staff or pupils.


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