Letters Extra: Don't brush stress under the carpet

17th January 2003 at 00:00

When is an illness not an illness? When one is medically diagnosed as sufferingnbsp;from stress.nbsp;

A great many people in schools still have little awareness or understanding ofnbsp;this debilitating illness.

If a member of staff is absent from school for some time due to an accident or with broken bones staff are informed by the leadership group.nbsp;Cards and flowers are sent on behalf of the staff but they are also urgednbsp;to call or visit to cheer the invalid up.nbsp;

If the illness is stress then this does not happen.nbsp;The symptoms of stress make one feel isolated.nbsp; Ifnbsp;the stress is work-related and the leadership group ignores the sufferernbsp;then the feeling of worthlessness and isolation is exacerbated.

Many years ago people suffering from mental illness were locked away and not spoken of.nbsp; A person suffering from stress is similarly "hidden".

The lack of understanding on the part of colleagues is somewhat understandable because like alcoholism his is initially a secretnbsp; illness.nbsp;

One does not want to appear weak and unable to cope publicly. The tears, sleeplessness and panic attacks mostly manifest themselves whennbsp;one is out of the workplace.nbsp;

The media has recently reported survey results that show that one in three teachers intends to leave the profession within five years.nbsp;

The survey reports that many teachers feel demoralised.nbsp;This could lead to stress.nbsp;Many excellent and experienced teachers have already left the profession due to stress.

I would urge those who have already been given leaflets about stress to take them out of their pigeonholes and desk drawers and read themnbsp;carefully.nbsp; All LEAs should follow this good example and inform staffnbsp;about this illness.nbsp;nbsp;

If leadership groups treat stress as they would any other illness then the feeling of isolation and worthlessness would decrease.nbsp;

Claire Walters
Mansfield Road
Bamford, Rochdale

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