Urgent need to tackle the mental health crisis in schools and across society

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

#stuc19 Congress mapped out a range of measures to tackle mental ill-health across all working people, including education staff, musicians, and the fire service, it held a grouped debate on all the motions on mental health.

Congress slammed the impact of austerity on workers’ mental health as they strive to do more with less, and called for parity between physical and mental health and for action by the Scottish Government and employers to prevent and tackle mental ill-health.

Supporting a motion from NASU WT amended by the EIS, UNISON’s Kate Ramsden said that UNISON shared the concerns of the teaching unions about rising levels of stress within classrooms both for staff and for the children they educate

We recognise the stressors identified in this motion and it has long been clear to us that public service cuts have had a wide ranging impact both on the services and the people who provide them,” said Kate.

We also know that councils have borne the brunt of austerity, with the Scottish Government passing on most of the budget cuts to local authorities.

These cuts have left staff doing more with less with the consequent impact on their metal health and well being as outlined in this amended motion.”

Kate pointed out however, that it’s not just teachers who are affected by this. She highlighted UNISON’s 2017 survey of support staff working in schools across Scotland which showed that at the same time as pupil numbers and their educational support needs were rising, support staff numbers were reducing leaving them struggling to maintain the standards of support that pupils need.

60% of respondents reported low morale, and many reported stress from the lack of support they received and a lack of training for the tasks they were asked to carry out – like administering medicines or supporting pupils with challenging behaviour.”

Add to this the challenges faced by the children they support, with more and more growing up in poverty and a lack of services to address rising mental health problems amongst children and young people and you can see it is a perfect storm for teachers and school support staff,” said Kate.

She also referred to a recent survey of pupil support staff in Aberdeen which shows that struggles with mental health amongst this group of workers is at an all time high, with absences due to stress, depression and anxiety all on the rise.

As Workers’ Memorial Day approaches and we remember all those who died doing their job we must also remember those who are daily made ill by their work,” said Kate, calling for us to press for proper health and safety regulation and legislation to address the causes of stress and depression, for teachers, school support workers and children.

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