Increase in call from teachers seeking emotional support

A health and wellbeing charity for education staff has reported a 35% increase in calls from teachers to an emotional support helpline over the past 12 months

Between April 2017 and March 2018 a total of 8,668 cases were managed through the Education Support Partnership’s confidential helpline. The number who disclosed their occupation as a ‘teacher’ increased from 2,321 (between April 2016 and March 2017) to 3,136 – a 35% increase.

The helpline is free and available to all teachers, lecturers and staff in education (primary, secondary, further or higher education) in England, Scotland and Wales. Callers are offered up to six sessions of telephone counselling with an accredited counsellor.

The report identities that workplace stress (2,681) followed by work performance issues (1,029) were the two most common reasons for education staff calling. There was also increases in cases relating to conflict at work (+16%) and bullying or harassment (+18%) compared to the previous year.

In addition to a 35% increase in cases from teachers there was a rise in calls from headteachers and deputy heads of 24%.

Other findings included:

  • The highest percentage of calls were from education staff in London (+38% compared to the previous year).
  • The majority of cases came from staff in Primary schools (45%).
  • The number of cases for education staff Under 30 increased by 65%.
  • The highest percentage of calls were made in November 2017 (12%)

The recent growth in demand supports the findings of Education Support Partnership’s 2017 Health Survey. Here, a third of education professionals said their job had made them feel stressed most or all of the time in the past few weeks, compared to 18% of the UK workforce overall. A staggering 53% have also considered leaving the sector within the past two years because of health pressures.

Julian Stanley, CEO at Education Support Partnership, said: “The numbers are high, however put into context, the true scale of the problem is fully revealed.

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“The majority of those accessing our support are doing so at a late stage; once they have reached a crisis level. This can and should be avoided, where possible.

“School leaders, governors, teachers and support staff themselves must work to end the continuing stigma that exists about seeking support at the earliest possible sign of poor mental health and wellbeing. It is not easy for teachers to do this unless the environment they work in is supportive and understanding.

“If you are in education and worrying more than usual, finding it hard to enjoy your life outside work or having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with; these are all things that can lead to prolonged poor mental health if not dealt with.

“I would strongly encourage you to access the support that is available when this occurs, as this provides the best chance of addressing the symptoms before they turn into something more serious.”

Victoria, a secondary school teacher, said: “I became exhausted and as a result broke down in front of a class. I stepped into my classroom and instantly knew I couldn’t be there… I just broke down in tears. I couldn’t explain it.

“The next day arrived and I didn’t want to go back. I knew that if I didn’t speak to someone, I would never go back to work. So I called the helpline.

“I can honestly say that the support I received from Education Support Partnership has kept me in teaching. Without that first phone call I can guarantee I would have left teaching. I would never have had the strength to see a doctor and take time off to get myself back on track.”

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