Suicidal teachers turn to helpline

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
MORE than 50 suicidal and clinically-depressed teachers have called a counselling helpline in the past 18 months, it was revealed this week.

The Teacherline service disclosed the figure as staff and pupils at a school in Lewisham, south London, struggled to come to terms with the apparent suicide of an assistant headteacher.

The body of Patrick Stack, 45, was found hanging in a minibus garage in the grounds of Sedgehill comprehensive at midday last Wednesday.

There was disbelief among pupils, parents and teachers at the 1,750-pupil school, as Mr Stack was described as a popular and apparently happy figure, devoted to his job. Only last year he was awarded the MBE for services to education.

A father-of-four and keen sportsman, he was a vocational, outdoor pursuits and life-skills teacher, who led 20 school trips last year.

Police are not treating the death as suspicious, but pupils said they could scarcely believe he had taken his life.

Mr Stack's widow, Kathy, said: "Pat was an extraordinarily talented and dedicated teacher. His family and friends were, and remain, immensely proud of him."

Mr Stack's funeral is due to take place today in Forest Gate, east London, where he lived. An inquest will be held inMay.

His death follows the apparent suicide last month of Martin Lynch, 46, head of Hobbs Hill Wood primary school, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Mr Lynch was found dead with his 70-year-old father Joseph at their home after what police suspect was a suicide pact. Martin Lynch's wrists had been slashed. Detectives are not treating the deaths as suspicious.

Last year primary teacher Pamela Relf drowned herself two months after an Office for Standards in Education visit, leaving a note complaining of stress and long hours at work. A spokesman for the Teacher Support Network said there were often several reasons for a caller's depression. "Among the more serious calls, workload has been mentioned as just one factor," he said.

"Others could include conflict with colleagues, personal relationship issues with regard to a partner or family, or issues with regard to leaving the profession."

Overall, the service has received 17,000 calls since it was set up, in September 1999. In its first year, Teacherline took 1,000 calls per month. Since September, the figure has been running at 1,250. The bulk of the calls are about workload problems and conflicts with colleagues.

The number for Teacherline is 08000 562561

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