Stressed Teachers Driven To Drink, Drugs And Death

One in three teachers is turning to drink, drugs, smoking and binge-eating to escape the pressures of their jobs, a survey has revealed. Some are even being driven to suicide, the National Union of Teachers was told.

Troubled staff are becoming hooked on drugs or medication and developing eating disorders, blaming excessive workloads, relentless Government initiatives, the stress of Ofsted inspections, “bullying” heads and rising indiscipline among pupils.

In an emotional debate at the NUT annual conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, delegates described breaking down in tears at school and told how some colleagues had taken their own lives.

One delegate highlighted the case of primary teacher Sarah Flooks, who disappeared in March last year on the day she was to face Ofsted inspectors.

An inquest, which has been adjourned, heard a kitchen knife and an empty sachet of eight tablets were found near her body, which was eventually discovered in January near her home in Wanstead, East London.

Her case was raised by John Illingworth, a former NUT president who told last year’s conference how stress had driven him to a breakdown and forced him to quit as head of a Nottingham primary school.

Yesterday he read from a letter from the wife of a headmaster who became depressed after a critical inspection.

Reading from the letter, Mr Illingworth said: “He never believed he was any good any more. Eventually after many bad nights of screaming and shaking he gave up and could not get out of bed to go to work. He retired six months later.

“He was a complete mental mess. I now see he had given up on life altogether. Two months later he ended it.”

Magenta Stonestreet, a psychology teacher at Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside, told how the pressure of work had forced her to take four months off through depression.

“One of the things which I think was good is that I managed to get the kids out of the classroom the other day before I cried,” she said.

A survey of 140 teachers in Nottingham found that just over one in three “resorts to alcohol, smoking, unhealthy eating or other substances to help them cope”.

One in 15 was taking prescribed medication such as antidepressants.

The union passed a motion which called on ministers, councils and school governors to do more to improve teachers’ well-being. It said one in three teachers will experience mental health problems in their career.