WATCH: ‘Nobody tells us we’re doing a good job - teachers feel worthless'

By Charlotte Santry on 01 April 2018

A teacher who yesterday told the NASUWT conference that she overdosed at her desk four years ago tells Tes what led to her 'cry for help'

Claire Taylor was working as a drama teacher at a secondary school in the North East when her mental health spiralled downwards.

Like many teachers, she felt under pressure from marking policies, changes to exams, challenging pupil behaviour and time-consuming data entry processes.

But, as the only individual in her department - and no staffroom where she could talk to colleagues - she started to feel progressively isolated.

She says: "I was responsible for everything in my department, and my classroom was at the furthest end of the school. I had nobody to talk to."

At the same time, she was facing financial problems, and her relationship with her partner was breaking down. 

She was being treated for depression, but didn't feel she could talk to senior colleagues about her condition or reveal how bad she was feeling.

One day, everything became too much. While sitting at her desk at school, she took "a lot" of the pills she had been prescribed by her doctor to treat the depression. "It was a cry for help," she says. Luckily a colleague found her, and arranged for her to go to hospital, and she subsequently received the therapy and medication she needed to return to teaching.

Now, working with primary-aged children with special educational needs, she is much happier, but worries that other teachers may be feeling the way she was, and not getting the help they need. “That support mechanism isn’t there at schools, and getting access to outside help is a postcode lottery," she says.

She wants more recognition of the pressures that teachers are under, and of how hard they work. "We, just like everybody else, just like the kids, we like to be told we’re doing something good. And unfortunately…nobody tells us we’re doing a good job," she says.

“That ultimately has a massive impact on our mental health," she continues. "We feel worthless, and that then spirals. That impacts on what we do in the classroom, and ultimately what we do at home and on our personal lives.”

WATCH: Teacher says a lack of recognition is making professionals feel "worthless"