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Profession `on its knees' say teachers after mental health report

Almost half of classroom staff said they experienced depression, anxiety or panic attacks due to work

SHOCK findings of a mental health report show the teaching profession is "on its knees", a union leader has warned.

The newly-published Teacher Wellbeing Index highlighted a stress epidemic and rising mental health issues.

More than three-quarters of teachers surveyed experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms and more than half were considering leaving the profession due to poor health.

Senior leaders appeared particularly hard hit with 80 per cent suffering from work-related stress and 40 per cent from symptoms of depression.

Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU), said the findings were shocking yet unsurprising.

"While the fact that more than four in 10 teachers now say they are struggling to cope with poor behaviour might be shocking to the general public, it is the daily reality for many teachers," she said.

"What we have always known too but what this new data underpins is the strong link between poor pupil behaviour and teachers' declining mental health. It's citing a 35 per cent increase in the number of calls to its helpline from teachers having suicidal thoughts.

"Our officers too are coping with a growing number of increasingly serious issues facing members who fear they're being cut adrift to cope in isolation with issues not of their making."

The wellbeing survey also found that 47 per cent experienced depression, anxiety or panic attacks due to work.

Insomnia increased from 41-56 per cent in the last year and irritability or mood swings from 37-51 per cent. About one in four also reported tearfulness, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.

Ms Hall Callaghan said violence in classrooms took its toll but added that it was often "the relentless disengagement from learning and undermining of teaching by parents which can wear teachers down too".

"The situation is bringing the profession to its knees, on top of the financial pressures which are adding to this perfect storm," she said.

"The result is we see children with additional needs losing their classroom assistants and a growing number with behavioural issues being placed in so-called mainstream schools - all of this is happening without any recourse to how they will be adequately supported in a school with a shrinking budget and growing bills.

"It can only end one way - our children are failed and their teachers' careers blighted. This to too high a price to pay and must not be tolerated in one of the world's richest economies."

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