Stress leading to mental health problems

More than half of educational staff say their job is affecting their mental health, a new survey suggests.

The ATL survey of over 900 school and college staff suggested that teachers are increasingly facing mental health problems because of pressures in their working life, the Telegraph reports.

Other findings were that:

  • 55% of respondents said their job had a negative impact on their mental health; of these 80% said they were stressed
  • 70% said they were left feeling exhausted by their work
  • 66% said their work disturbed their sleep
  • 38% have seen an increase in mental health issues among colleagues over the last two years.

The union is concerned that the stigma attached to mental health issues has resulted in many teachers being afraid to tell their employer if they have a problem; 68% decided to keep it a secret, compared with 38% with a physical health issue.

Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, said she was shocked at the rise in mental health problems amongst teachers, lecturers and other staff: “They need to be supported better, with schools and colleges making adjustments to jobs and working conditions where necessary.” A conference resolution called on the union to establish a working group to look at the impact of performance-management systems on staff with mental health problems or hidden disabilities.

Is your job having a negative impact on your mental health – and if so what could be done to lessen the damage?

2 thoughts on “Stress leading to mental health problems

  1. Having spent about three years out of six on antidepressants, I had to get out of the classroom and si became a supply teacher. I am currently in a long term post, but the flexibility of being on supply helps balance the stress of the job – just knowing that I can walk away if it becomes too much is a great feeling. In my current job there have been at least 2 people on long term sick due to stress and I know of at least another 3 people who have suffered as well. The sooner the politicians and the bosses realise the extent of the problem then the better for all concerned.

  2. Yes, stress can be a big issue in education. For any job, if it isn’t what you really want to do and you’re in it only for the salary, it can be stressful. So only people who really want to teach should go into teaching! And they can also feel lots of stress!

    In the educational environment, some of the factors that can create stress are: large class sizes; students who do not follow proper discipline and respect the teacher; problems like drugs and guns in inter-city schools; and schedules that are not suitable for each teacher’s time and work style.

    I think the 50-minute period system common to many schools throughout the world – where students and/or teachers need to constantly move from classroom to classroom and jump from subject to subject – is a prime stresser, specially as much of this system came from practices in the military. Colleges and universities are much less stressful places to teach and learn, simply because they don’t have bells and have longer class periods of an hour or more.

    After teaching private tuition classes of 10 students are less that lasted for 1 to 3 hours for years, with long blocks of preparation time in the mornings or evenings, I experienced extreme stress getting used to teaching classes of 25 students at an international school in Myanmar in 50-minute periods – with insufficient time for class preparations, because of all the time we were forced to spend sitting in meetings that had little to do with our subject and in morning and evening gate duty. The top stresser for me was that I never had a 2-hour block of time to sit down to write the week’s lesson plans (to send to other teachers in Taunggyi!), create an exam, or a Scheme of Work.

    And I also experienced extreme stress teaching a camp for Korean students in Malaysia, because most of the younger students didn’t want to be there and were only sent there by their parents as a way to get them out of the way during the summer break! They were already so overworked during the school year. Other jobs in Malaysia were stressful due to management problems in language centers constantly being sold to different management, and managed by people who knew nothing about Education.

    Most stressful of all was commuting. In most of my jobs in Malaysia, I had to spend 4 to 6 hours to day commuting by public transport from my apartment to the centre, and would rise at 5 am, leave by 7 am, and come home at 10 or 11 pm!

    But, in general, aside from commuting, if the students are mostly well behaved and want to learn, and the school is properly managed, it’s not a stressful job. If the students are poorly behaved and don’t want to learn, and the school is badly managed by people who don’t know Education, then it can be an extremely stressful job!

    As far as stress relief, I am in serious question whether that needs to be commoditised into something we need to pay another professional for, like a counselor. Just talking to friends and religious people like pastors or monks, meditation, nature activities, religious activities, creative work, exercise, calming music, and herbal medicines can all be good stress relievers for teachers, and were how people relieved their stress for most of history before there was such thing as a mental health profession. However, the way schools and jobs are managed also can affect the stress level of the job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>