Call for suicide prevention support for teachers

2 weeks ago 22

teacher marking student's workImage source, Getty Images

By Andre Rhoden-Paul

BBC News

Teachers are to debate a call for suicide prevention training amid warnings the pressures of the job are leading to a "mental health emergency".

The issue will be subject to a vote on Sunday at the conference for teachers' union NASUWT.

The motion warns of a "rise in suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts within the teaching profession".

It comes as education watchdog Ofsted faces greater scrutiny after the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry.

The 53-year-old took her own life in January 2023 after an Ofsted report downgraded her school in Reading.

At her inquest, a coroner ruled the Ofsted inspection "contributed" to her death and warned there was a risk of further deaths "unless action is taken".

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach warned "too many teachers are having their health destroyed" while others leave the profession to "save their sanity".

"Nobody should be brought to the brink of ending their own life because of their job," he said.

"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."

The motion is calling for suicide prevention for all school leaders, and fully-funded mandatory mental health training in all schools and colleges.

It warned the pressures of the job are "leading to a mental health emergency" and that teachers' health "is reaching a crisis point".

If the motion is passed, which is expected, at the annual conference in Harrogate, it will inform what the union campaigns for on behalf of its 300,000 members.

It comes as NASUWT revealed a voluntary survey of 11,754 members in the UK found 86% of teachers who responded believed their job adversely affected their mental health in the last 12 months.

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

"Vomiting with stress before work, crying in work after badly behaved students so couldn't teach next class," said one unnamed teacher who took the survey, according to responses released by the union.

Another said: "Drained emotionally and mentally when I get home resulting in me not giving my two daughters the best mum."

Among those surveyed, 3% said they self-harmed in the last 12 months because of work.

Claire Ward, a teacher and union representative for Lancashire, is bringing the motion.

She told the BBC the union had been getting reports across the country about an increasing number of teachers experiencing poor mental health, suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide.

"We know from the very sad suicide of Ruth Perry following the Ofsted that it is on the increase unfortunately, and more and more teachers are feeling the pressure," she said.

"All this is going to do is increase the recruitment and retention crisis we have."

She said workloads and teachers being placed on performance-related support plans were among the pressures causing teachers to have suicidal thoughts.

The Department for Education (DfE) offered a £1,200 grant for state schools in England to train a mental health leader, with applications set to close on Sunday.

A 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 £2m investment to provide professional supervision and counselling to school and college leaders."

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can visit BBC Action Line.

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