UK charity receives record number of helpline calls from teachers in crisis | Education Support

UK charity receives record number of helpline calls from teachers in crisis

16th May 2019

A charity that supports teachers and other staff working in education has experienced its highest number of calls ever to its emotional support helpline in the past 12 months.

Counsellors at Education Support Partnership, the only charity dedicated to improving the wellbeing and mental health of the whole education workforce throughout the UK, dealt with a record 9,615 cases between April 2018 and the end of March 2019, the largest number in the charity’s history. This represents an increase of 28% in annual cases compared to two years ago1.

In March 2019 alone, the charity managed 1,156 cases, making it the busiest month its confidential helpline has ever had. At the same time, its specially trained and accredited2 counsellors continue to report that more calls are coming from those already experiencing a crisis. Many cases related to workplace stress whilst other common issues included conflict at work, bullying and harassment in the workplace.

This reflects the charity’s findings in its Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018 which identified that 76% of education staff experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to work compared to 60% of UK employees overall.

Helen, an experienced primary school teacher who used the service, commented:

“I suffered a really difficult time in my last school. I didn’t feel hugely supported at work and felt very unhappy. I had been teaching at the school for 22 years, however, my last three years were really tough.

“Now I’m really appreciated again in a new role. The helpline was really supportive and helped me with my feelings and moving on. I felt emotionally burdened and the counsellors just got to the nub of it. I’m gradually building my confidence again.” 

The report also revealed that:

  • Helpline cases related to workplace stress grew by 49% compared to the previous year
  • 57% of cases involved staff who have been working in education for under five years3
  • Callers clinically assessed to be at risk of suicide rose to 561 (compared to 357 in 2017/18)
  • 46% of cases were staff working in primary schools

Anna, a special needs teacher who also used the service, added:

“I was being bullied at work. It got so bad I started self-harming. It really affected my mental health. I ended up in a very dark place and took two overdoses.

“I had counselling through Ed Support which I then continued myself after my Dad died.  The helpline was amazing. You guys were my light in a very dark tunnel.”

Of those who did speak to the helpline, an overwhelming number said that talking to one of the trained counsellors improved how they were able to cope with problems they had. 87%said they felt better equipped to deal with their problems after accessing support, either after one call or through a number of structured sessions talking to a counsellor.

Sinéad Mc Brearty, CEO of Education Support Partnership, commented:

“Our annual helpline report raises deep concerns. We can see a steep rise in teachers struggling to maintain good wellbeing and mental health in extremely challenging times in the profession. 

“It is striking that teachers are not asking for help at the first, or even second, sign of difficulty.  The vast majority of callers only get in touch when they are in crisis.  Rising numbers of callers are new to teaching or at an early stage in their careers.

“At the same time however, what is extremely encouraging is that our helpline is clearly making a significant difference. Certainly, it is helping to keep many in the profession.”

At present, fewer than half (43%) of classroom teachers are aware they can access free and confidential telephone counselling. The charity wants to see more schools and institutions offer staff access to specialist face-to-face counselling, through measures such as Employee Assistance Programme. Education Support Partnership is also calling on the Department for Education to make wellbeing and mental health a central component of early career support.  

Mc Brearty continues:

“We want to see a proactive approach to nurturing teacher’s resilience through their initial training, early career and managed throughout professional life. Encouraging teachers and other staff to also take a proactive approach to their own wellbeing at work and spot the signs of others who might be struggling is essential.

“Teaching is a relational role, even for the most data-oriented teacher.  Teachers make children and young people feel recognised, safe and able to learn: this is why teaching is such an important job.  Stress directly undermines a person’s ability to perform well. Nobody wants desensitised, emotionally exhausted adults in the classroom.  It is time to take serious, strategic action on the health of schools as workplaces.

“We urge anyone working in education who is feeling overwhelmed, fearful, worried, anxious or disinterested in life to call us on 08000 562 561, no matter how insignificant they think their problems may be. We are here 24/7 to offer free, confidential support.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

View the full report at 00:01 hours on Thursday 16th May at edsupport.org.uk/helpline-report

Education Support Partnership is working with BBC Teach to highlight stress triggers for teachers and tips for coping. BBC Teach have produced this new, short film in which two teachers open up about their own mental health and share advice from personal experience: https://www.bbc.com/teach/teacher-support/teachers-open-up-about-mental-health/zbn7cqt

We are the UK's only charity providing mental health and wellbeing support services to all education staff and organisations.

Established 140 years ago as a benevolent fund for teachers, we have been continuously evolving to meet the changing needs of the education sector. Today we are proud to support anyone working in education, at any level and in any institution.

We champion good mental health and wellbeing of teachers, lecturers, school leaders, support staff and prison educators throughout their careers and during retirement as well as supporting education leaders with a wide range of tools to help improve professional and organisational development too.

  1. 7,507 cases in 2016/17
  2. Accredited to BACP standard (or equivalent)
  3. Based on those who voluntarily disclosed this information
  4. Based on those who responded to Education Support Partnership’s online feedback and evaluation form.