For many years the education system has been forced to respond to constant changes. The rate these changes are being implemented along with increases in data collection, monitoring and accountability is leading to huge rises in stress levels among professionals.
Today, demands on education professionals have never been greater. So many take time off work due to stress... and never go back.
Through my involvement with schools I have noticed a problem that seems to be growing year on year. It is claimed that one in three teachers’ emotional health will suffer at sometime throughout their career and yet few do little about it before it’s too late.
Typical feelings experienced:
- Reduced capacity to make decisions
- Irritable with colleagues / students
- Denial - “it’s not happening to me”
- Feeling a failure
- Angry with self and / or others
- Guilty about the way you are feeling
counselling for teachers
Students are offered counselling and encouraged to seek emotional support when they face difficulties in their lives. Typically these support mechanisms are not available when teachers need emotional support. Discussion about teacher mental health remains taboo within the profession. Crucially, many don't want to admit to themselves that they need support as it signifies some sort of failure on their part. In some schools there's a culture of “pull yourself together” or “only wimps take time off for stress”. Many feel their career would be in jeopardy if they shared their concerns with colleagues.
At the 2006 NUT National Conference, former President John Illingworth bravely highlighted the issue of teacher mental health by publicly outlining his experiences and reasons for leaving the profession.
With the increasing pressures faced at work, it only takes the addition of a personal issue (e.g. bereavement or break-up with partner) to send someone over the edge. All ages are affected, NQTs and those with years of experience. It often hits the most conscientious, caring and hard-working.
If you struggle with stress or have concerns about your mental health I urge you to contact me, without obligation, to discuss your situation. From my base in North Manchester I can offer one-to-one support in a confidential setting well away from schools or colleges. All calls are treated in strict confidence.
As well as an individual's health, stress affects staff morale and ultimately whole school performance. Providing cover for long-term absence is expensive. It can be more cost-effective to meet work-related stress issues head on. If you are a progressive Headteacher or SMT member and would like to offer professional emotional support to staff, please contact me to discuss how this could be achieved.