Education

Does Teaching Cause Mental Illness?

May 08, 2009 1 min read

If you work with students, you may well have thought, or even said, “This job is driving me crazy!” A 27-minute-long video, produced by the U.K.-based Teachers.tv, and presented by The Guardian, suggests you might be on to something.

The lushly produced video presents in-depth interviews with several British teachers who have lost their positions as a result of mental illness. They discuss what led to their diagnoses, and how their lives have changed as a result. One former teacher reports he can no longer “even drive past a primary school” as it makes him physically sick. John Illingworth, former president of the (somewhat unfortunately named) NUT (National Union of Teachers), is another victim. Illingworth has carved out a new career dedicated to raising awareness of teacher mental illness, and what can be done to mitigate teacher stress. He cites a survey— Crazy About Work— of one district’s union members in which 70 percent of teachers surveyed reported increased stress directly related to increased demands for monitoring, data collection, and accountability.

Food for thought.

But does stress really cause mental illness? The interviewees draw a straight line from one to the other, though it’s not clear that science would back them up.

Still, props to teachers.tv for shining a spotlight on what just may be the last taboo. In the U.S., discussing burnout is common, but mental illness among teachers? Not so much.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.

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