Stressed staff turn to union helpline

26th December 1997 at 00:00
More than 250 members of the Educational Institute of Scotland have used the union's four helplines in the three months since they were introduced, figures released today (Friday) show.

There were 65 calls to the stress line alone. Ronnie Smith, the EIS general secretary, said a significant number involved work-related issues. "Members have concerns about class size, classroom indiscipline, workload, bullying at work and a range of more personal work-related worries which have been referred to other counsellors," Mr Smith said.

The stress calls have lasted from five to 70 minutes, the average being half an hour. The helpline is staffed by trained counsellors and the intention is to give them the opportunity of talking through their problem while also helping them develop strategies to combat it.

Mr Smith said: "I am very much aware that this service will not cure the problems of work-related stress. It is, however, providing an important means of support for members suffering from any stress-related condition. I would like to think that, in the future, the institute would be in a position to disband the helpline due to shortage of demand. However, in the present climate this may be something of a forlorn hope."

The EIS operates three other helplines dealing with bereavement, victim support and personal legal matters. The legal line accounted for the bulk of the calls, 173 in the period from the beginning of September to the end of November. But 90 of those dealt with employment issues on which the legal helpline does not provide advice. Such calls are passed to the union's legal affairs department.

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