Growing numbers of teachers are struggling with mental health issues and the risk of suicide is also rising, one support charity says.

The Education Support Partnership (ESP) says that between April last year and March 2019 they dealt with more than 9,600 cases of classroom support assistants and teachers in crisis. That’s a rise of 20% over two years.

The charity says that its emotional support helpline is now seeing its highest ever level volume of calls.

Of these, the number of teachers who are assessed clinically to be at the risk of suicide increased to 561 – that’s a rise of 57%.

One of the big issues, the charity says, is that teachers are not asking for help until they are in crisis.

Other data reveals that nearly 60% of the helpline’s callers are staff who have worked in education for less than five years.

‘Teachers who are struggling to maintain good mental health’

The charity’s chief executive, Sinead McBrearty, said: “We have seen a steep rise in teachers who are struggling to maintain good mental health and well-being in challenging times for the profession.

“It’s striking that teachers are not asking for help at the first sign of difficulty, or even the second. Most contact us when they have reached crisis.”

The charity’s aim is to improve the mental health and well-being of everybody in education.

And while 75% of those contacting the helpline were classroom teachers, 46% of them are from the primary sector. One in three are working as teachers in secondary schools.

Most of those contacting the charity cited panic/anxiety over their roles and low mood issues.

The education charity is now urging the government to provide more information over its plans to embed emotional intelligence and resilience into teacher training under the new early career framework.

Creating a teacher well-being advisory panel

Last March, education secretary Damian Hinds responded to growing concerns by creating a teacher well-being advisory panel that is being led by the former chief executive of Mind, Paul Farmer.

The panel will look at how school leaders and teachers can be supported better in dealing with the pressures of the job.

Mr Hinds told school leaders: “There is much greater understanding about well-being and mental health as a society, and it’s something many of you raise when I visit your schools.

“While those conversations are focused on supporting students, it is clear that your well-being is something we should prioritise.”

The general secretary of NAHT, Paul Whiteman, said that he was concerned over the report’s findings.

He said: “School leaders and teachers are being asked increasingly to do more with less as the pressure of high-stakes accountability, heavy workloads and the funding crisis bear down.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We trust headteachers to take action where staff are struggling to tackle the causes of stress and ensure they receive the support they need.”

More information

The free and confidential helpline run by ESP is 08000 562561.