Teachers’ mental health needs must be addressed by employers, says INTO
By ELEANOR McGILLIE
THE Irish National Teachers’ Organisation says there’s an increasing need to deal with teachers’ mental health needs in schools across Northern Ireland due to a sharp rise in serious mental health problems in young people.
Figures published recently revealed that almost 800 post primary school pupils in Northern Ireland are on a waiting list to receive counselling – a figure released by the Department of Education in response to a question in the assembly by DUP MLA, Joanne Bunting.
A motion passed at today’s INTO Northern Conference (March 6) raised concerns over the continued high rate of school aged suicides and the inadequate resources available to teachers to support young people with mental health issues.
Conference called on the Northern Committee to lobby the Minister for Education, Peter Weir MLA, the Education Authority, and all relevant bodies, for an increase in funding for mental health services in schools, to urgently address these inadequacies and to prioritise early intervention strategies and meaningful support services for pupils.
Trade Union Official, Paul Groogan, said the INTO, through NITC, are striving to raise the issue of mental health wellbeing among teachers by asking employers to consider setting aside a School Development Day as a specific Teacher Wellbeing day, in all schools, beginning in the 2020/2021 academic year.
Mr Groogan said: “The figures released recently are shocking – that’s almost 800 pupils in our classrooms, where teachers are also feeling the effects mental health issues. There is a greater awareness of mental health wellbeing in our society and the teachers’ role in boosting the mental health of pupils becomes ever more important.
“This brings added responsibility for teachers which means more pressure is placed on them and teachers, and the education system, is not properly set up to deal with this growing issue.
“When a teacher contacts us, and we are dealing with their case, and if they worried about their wellbeing, we recommend the teacher contacts the charity Inspire for support. Employers suggest this support too. Teachers are entitled to six counselling sessions and anyone who has used Inspire have found these sessions extremely helpful.
“We all deal with physical and mental health throughout our lives and our health fluctuates and changes as we encounter the troughs and peaks of everyday life. In particular our mental health is affected, among other influences, by unresolved emotional issues.
“The INTO deals, day in day out, with professionals whose self-esteem and confidence take a daily battering. Their dedication to the pupils needs, be it academic, social or emotional, leaves them stressed and drained. Each day they go into work to deal with whatever issues the pupils face and strive to alleviate their pressures while elevating their own.
“Teaching is not just about facilitating learning. It is so much more. A teacher is a parent, a nurse, a mental health nurse, a counsellor, an inspiration and a role model. But what about the teacher? Who is minding their mind?”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- INTO is the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation. It is the largest teachers’ union in Ireland. INTO has a Northern Office and a Southern Office. The Northern Office is based at Vere Foster House, 23 College Gardens, Belfast.
- For interview requests or further information contact Eleanor McGillie of MGMPR Ltd on| 07709805379