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South West has most suicidal teachers

A quarter of teachers at risk of suicide this year are from Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, says national charity

South west has most suicidal teachers

A quarter of teachers at risk of suicide this year are from Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, says national charity

The number of teachers contacting a charity helpline because they are feeling suicidal has risen by 14 per cent, figures show.

The Education Support Partnership charity says teachers are seeking help with mental health issues caused by heavy workload, poor student behaviour, treatment by line managers and loss of autonomy over what they can teach, among other reasons.

Of the 8,600 calls to its helpline last year, a total of 390 were from teachers who were suicidal, compared with 342 the previous year.

And the charity says it has identified a “highly significant” spike in the latest figures, for April to August this year, which show that about 24 per cent of those teachers are from the South West of England – the region that includes Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset.

The charity’s head of policy, Richard Faulkner, said it wasn’t necessarily the case that schools in the South West were worse places to work than the rest of country, but that more teachers were possibly suffering mental health problems due to personal problems that they were taking into school.

He said: “We’ve looked into the causes very briefly and found that the South West has been identified as a European Area of Deprivation, and a lot of that comes from its reliance on tourism, which has suffered, but this is very much scraping the surface.

"We’re keeping a watching brief to see if this trend continues, and if it does, then we’ll conduct research to further understand the factors behind this in more depth."

The places with the second- and third-highest numbers of teachers seeking help for suicidal tendencies since April are the South East (not including London), at 18 per cent, and the North East, at 14 per cent.

Julian Stanley, CEO of Education Support Partnership, said the number of calls was "deeply concerning".

He added: "Our accredited counsellors are trained to deal with such cases; however, so much more needs to be done across the sector to halt this rising trend.

"Those working in education should access support at the earliest sign of poor wellbeing, as this significantly reduces the risk of developing a severe mental health problem.

"More must also be done at a structural and environment level, within our schools, to reduce what is too often unmanageable levels of pressure and a toxic culture.”

The charity is funded by donations from retired teachers and lecturers. It also helps education staff experiencing financial hardship, which it says can be linked to mental health issues. The helpline number is 0800 0562561.

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