Rising numbers of teachers are turning to drugs to get through the stress of a school day, a shock study has found.
They are using prescription drugs, such as anti-depressants and valium, and more are visiting their doctor and seeking counselling for their problems.
Some have considered suicide, others have self-harmed and nearly one in ten have suffered breakdowns in their relationships.
A teachers’ union leader said it was a “national scandal” that the mental and physical health of teachers was being neglected.
Three in ten teachers (30%) say they have turned to medication in the last 12 months to cope with the physical and mental toll of their job.
The survey of 4,000 teachers carried out over the last two months for the NASUWT teachers’ union found more than two out of five (41%) had seen a doctor or medical professional – up 2% on last year.
And one in six (15%) say they have undergone cousnelling – up from 12% last year as teachers report an increase in workplace stress over the last year.
Today the issue is top of the agenda at the annual conference of the NASUWT in Birmingham and union leaders will blame excessive workload and workplace bullying for the worsening problem.
Delegates will call for a campaign to end the stigma of mental health, better suport for teachers and mental health “first aid” training in schools.
The findings come as more than three-quarters (78%) – up one percentage point on last year – of teachers report they have experienced an increase in workplace stress.
More than four out of five (84%) say their job has had a negative impact on their health, both physically and mentally.
School stress has led to more than half (56%) saying their job satisfaction had declined and nearly two-thirds (65%) seriously considered leaving teaching in the last year.
The survey also found:
- 77% (2017 75%) have experienced anxiety;
- 85% (2017 83%) have suffered from loss of sleep;
- 22% (2017 22%) have increased their use of alcohol;
- 9% (2017 9%) have suffered a relationship breakdown;
- 3% (2017 3%) have self-harmed.
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said:“These figures are an appalling catalogue of dedicated and committed teachers suffering damage to their physical and mental health.
“It is clear that too many employers are failing to exercise their duty of care for the health and welfare of their employees and are presiding over mental and physical burnout.
“It is nothing short of a national scandal that those who are dedicating themselves to giving a future to children and young people are seeing their own lives damaged by the failure of government and employers to take their health and welfare seriously.
“The time has come to end the culture of the “anything goes” style of management where any adverse impact on teachers is regarded as collateral damage.”
Teachers in their own words
- “I’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition linked to work-related stress and anxiety.”
- “I had a breakdown and started anti-depressants, I had little time off work and felt under pressure to return quickly. Workload and hours are a stressful situation.”
- “I suffer from chest pains, low mood, crying, and feeling like I can’t cope.”
- “I find myself physically shaking, feeling sick and sometimes being physically sick whilst getting ready to go to work.”
- “I struggle with regular panic attacks – several per day, inability to sleep, inability to function properly at work, and exhaustion. I have had to resign my post due to the effect it has been having on my mental health (severe anxiety/depression).”
- “I no longer feel positive about my job. I plan to try a different career after 23 years of teaching.”
- “I’m more irritable, and less efficient. I’m currently on anti-depressants due to the work load and stress of my job. My relationship with my long term partner also broke down due to my job.”
- “I have regular periods of depression and struggling to cope/feel like I cannot escape this now ridiculous job.”
- “I have considered taking my own life because the stress has got that much that I could not cope with everything.”
- “I have been off with illnesses which led to me being hospitalised. I believe the illnesses have been accelerated by work load and stress from constant observation, changes in teaching and bully tactics from management.”