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INTO calls for all teachers to be given mental health training

The training would mean that teachers could better deal with work colleagues who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

Image: Stressed teacher via Shutterstock

A REPORT BY the INTO’s Equality Committee has called for specialist mental health training for all teachers and principals after it found that an increased workload was one of the main factors contributing to mental health difficulties.

‘Experiences of Teachers’ with Mental Health Difficulties’ report was based on one-to-one interviews with six primary teachers and questioned them about general experiences of mental health difficulties, their experiences of working with a mental health difficulty, supports and raising awareness.

“There is more stress… Now you have to work much harder than we did in the past. There’s much longer hours and you’re under much more pressure,” said one teacher.

Some of the participants felt that the pressure of planning lessons often caused stress during holiday periods: “Over the Christmas holidays I was feeling very agitated, I was doing loads and loads of planning,” said one teacher. Another added: “During the summer, I wasn’t even at school but the panic about going back… I couldn’t enjoy my holiday it was as if I wasn’t there that I was still in the classroom”.

To tackle workplace stress the report calls for more ongoing professional development for teachers in newer subject areas such as science and technology.

It also argues that staff break times should be a time to relax and not an opportunity for mini staff meetings and ‘shop talk’ and warns about ‘scare mongering’ about school inspections.

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Although some teachers reported that their colleagues and principals were supportive others did not. One participant was told by a work colleague that “‘you have to work harder, you have to think about the children, don’t think about yourself’. I certainly felt that I wasn’t getting any support then”.

The report, which was presented to the INTO’s Equality Conference in Limerick at the weekend, also heard calls for flexibility for persons returning to work such as part time work, job sharing or resource teaching placement.

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