Annual survey uncovers an ‘epidemic’ of mental health issues

4th March 2016

Our survey results reveal 84% of those working in education admit to suffering problems, with workload to blame in 81% of cases.

Results also suggest mental health issues are at risk of being a closely guarded secret as only one quarter of those affected discussed their problems with line managers

Today the Education Support Partnership, the UK charity dedicated to providing counselling services and support programs to help those working in the education sector, will release the results of its second annual health survey of over 2000 of those working in Primary, Secondary, Higher and Further Education .  The survey’s findings highlighted that, for the second year, the majority (84%) had suffered from some form of mental health problems in the last 2 years including; stress (77%), anxiety (60%) and depression (38%).  

Workload was to blame in the majority of cases (81%) with the rapid pace of change and unreasonable demands from line managers neck and neck at 44%. Worryingly only 25% of those who had suffered problems discussed them with their line manager and a further 8% with HR. The remainder preferred to keep things closer to home with the majority speaking to their partner (64%), their friends (51%), or their family (45%). 

This suggests that in many cases sufficient and appropriate professional help is not yet in place in many education settings and that mental health problems are at risk of becoming a closely guarded secret.

2015 Health Survey Infographic

Julian Stanley, CEO of the Education Support Partnership explains “Our survey suggests that not only are mental health problems continuing to be a worrying trend for the sector, there is also a fear preventing people from speaking out or seeking appropriate help when they need it. Perhaps this is due to a shortage of workplace wellbeing programmes or due to a sense that school leaders just don’t want to hear more bad news. Either way this has to change if we are to hold onto valuable staff who need more support to help them stay working and at their best.” 

Only 40% of those surveyed said there was a workplace wellbeing policy in place in their education setting, 15% said there was not and 45% didn’t know. If there was a policy in place 71% felt it was either never or not often implemented properly.  But 46% said mental health would improve in their workplace if their employer had to meet independently-regulated high standards of health and wellbeing provision for staff.

Julian continues “These results suggest that some in the sector are experiencing a communications breakdown, not speaking to their managers about their issues but instead burdening their nearest and dearest with problems they neither know or can do anything about. Not only is this not sustainable from a professional but also a personal perspective, as our survey found that nearly half of those experiencing mental health problems had found this to have a negative impact on their personal relationships too.”

Julian continues “Ultimately, responsibility for work place wellbeing should lie with the employer, not family, friends or trade unions, this why we believe that the adoption of wellbeing programmes across the entire education sector is so critically important in helping to find ways to unlock, prevent and repair the damage of work place strain.” 

Worryingly, 77% of all of those surveyed had already or were considering leaving education as a result of pressure on their mental health. Of those already affected symptoms had caused many to take time off work; 78% taking a day here and there and a further 16% taking up to 6 months’ sick leave.  What’s more over half (53%) felt their ill health had a negative impact on their pupils’ studies.  

Overall, 74% of the survey sample felt that things could be better if managers worked with staff to reduce workload as well as 43% wanting a more approachable leadership team, and better communication of changes by managers 44%.  This suggests that more open conversations to find workplace solutions to health issues might not just help to save individual angst, but also better manage workload and hence help stem the current tide of departures from the teaching profession. 

On a more positive note, the survey also suggests that a problem shared is at least a problem halved. 56% of those affected by mental health conditions recently said that speaking to someone had helped them gain perspective on their problems, 34% gained practical advice this way and 21% regained their confidence. This further supports the importance of workplace wellbeing and employee assistance programmes and counselling and talking therapies services such as those provided by the Education Support Partnership. 

Of those who didn’t speak to anyone in their work place about their mental health problems, 32% kept quiet because they felt their issues were a sign of weakness, 27% admitted work colleagues were the cause of their problems, 24% preferred to find help outside of work and 21% stayed quiet at work because they were worried about losing their jobs. 

Julian Stanley continues “Despite the constant barrage of negative news education is still one of the most varied and inspiring sectors in which to work. With the right support from Government, school leaders and Governors, Local Authorities and Academy chains, education staff can still thrive and survive. The key learnings from this survey seem to be that making sharing of one’s concerns about mental health difficulties should be the norm rather than a shameful secret to be hidden away, and that more processes and policies need to be put into place to make sure that staff feel better supported and cared for.” 

For more information or help from the Education Support Partnership see www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk or call the free to use, 24 hour helpline on 08000 562561 

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For more media information contact Rachel.Gatley@edsupport.org.uk or 07563 267907

About Education Support Partnership 
The Education Support Partnership is a charity dedicated to all of those working in education, in schools FE and HE. We provide support for the emotional health and wellbeing of education staff. This includes a 24/7 helpline, telephone counselling, coaching, money management, grants, information and signposting.

As the only charity talking to education staff specifically about the issues they face on a day-to-day basis, the press office can provide unique data, trends, cases studies and comment. 
To get support call: 08000 562 561 or visit www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk