Professional counselling call for teachers facing mental health problems

Written by: Simon Doyle | Published:

Northern Ireland teachers should receive professional counselling when suffering work-related mental health problems, it has been said.

The NASUWT’s Northern Ireland Annual Conference heard that stress is increasingly affecting teachers, with six in 10 believing their jobs are adversely affecting their mental health.

A motion debated in Belfast supported moves to accredit senior lay officers of the union as “mental health first-aiders”.

A survey of the union’s members revealed that more than 80 per cent experienced increased workplace stress and believe that their jobs have had a negative impact on their wellbeing in the preceding 12 months.

Members said they supported the continuing work of the union in providing support, advice and guidance to teachers who were experiencing mental health stress.

This guidance involves educating members, workplace representatives and case workers through the union’s training programme to recognise stress and how to support colleagues.

In addition, the conference backed the union’s work to raise the profile of teachers’ mental health and wellbeing nationally and internationally.

A motion before the delegates said: “Conference further supports the National Executive in campaigning for all teachers to have an entitlement to mental health training, professional counselling and/or cognitive behaviour therapy when suffering work-related mental ill health.”

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT Northern Ireland’s national official, said that teaching is widely recognised as one of the most stressful occupations.

He continued: “But a healthy workforce is central to delivering healthy outcomes for pupils. There needs to be access to support, counselling and specific health interventions for the workforce otherwise more good teachers will be lost to the profession.”

NASUWT’s general secretary Chris Keates said teachers’ health and wellbeing had deteriorated dramatically over the last five years.

“Employers have responsibility for the mental health and wellbeing of their staff but few address this seriously.”

She continued: “The NASUWT believes that all schools should be providing mental health first-aid in the interests not only of teachers but also of pupils.”


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