Former teachers help the stressed

Nicola Porter

Former teachers who quit the classroom to become stress therapists will help make up a 22-strong Wales-based team dedicated to easing the troubles of workers.

Teacher Support Cymru (TSC), a leading support charity, is one of seven partners in a pound;5 million project to combat stress and depression among Welsh workers from all walks of life.

The partners are launching a call centre in Treforest, near Pontypridd, in November, under the Healthy Minds at Work initiative. It comes after TSC revealed teachers are more likely to suffer mental-health problems than any other workers.

Nearly 45 per cent of teachers seeking help from the organisation, which runs its own helpline, cited stress as a problem. Patrick Nash, chief executive of parent body Teacher Support Network, said the new 24-hour Healthy Minds helpline would help end the stigma of mental illness.

Callers will be able to talk over the phone, access a website or arrange a therapy session. But operators would also be able to give advice on achieving a work-life balance and sorting out work-based problems, such as classroom disputes with colleagues.

He added: "Teachers who ring in will be dealt with by a person who has an education background - that is so important."

Employers and staff are being targeted as part of a campaign to raise awareness of stress among the workforce.

Norah Clarke, director of TSC, said: "We have been working closely with employers across the public sector in Wales to break down the taboos associated with mental-health problems.

"We will use our experience of talking to teachers who suffer from anxiety and stress and, in more serious cases, have taken sick leave or ill-health retirement, to inform the project."

Pat McCarthy, seconded from public workers' union UNISON Cymru, is heading policy and development for the project.

She told delegates at its launch this week that she had suffered from a mental illness herself but was lucky enough to be helped by her employer.

"Dan", a 45-year-old secondary teacher from south Wales, was not so fortunate. He was off sick on medication and returned to a challenging class.

He said: "I have no choice but to resign. Over the past two years my health has deteriorated and even though my GP diagnosed stress-related illness, my head considered it a capability issue."

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