1,500 years of Scottish school staff time lost to mental health issues in the past three years

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Just over half a million work days among teaching staff in Scotland have been lost to mental health issues over the past three years, according to new figures released under Freedom of Information legislation.

Following on from concerning figures reported last week regarding senior mental health staff vacancies, the scale of mental health absences seen in teaching staff continue to paint a stark picture of mental health support across the country.

The numbers come from 25 of Scotland's 32 local authorities, which reported a total of 548,439 teacher and support staff days – equivalent to 1,503 years – lost for mental health reasons since 2017/18.

In addition, the number of mental health absences across the country increased per year from 139,979 in 2017/18 to 181,191 in 2019/20, while the city of Glasgow reported the most days lost (20,821) in 2019/20 alone.

The data was revealed by Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Beatrice Wishart, who blamed a lack of classroom support from the Scottish National Party for the poor numbers.

“The pressures caused by the SNP’s top-down approach to education and the loss of valuable classroom support have been obvious for some time," said Wishart. "It’s no surprise that both teacher morale and Scotland’s performance in international educational surveys are headed in the wrong direction. All of this was taking its toll long before the coronavirus pandemic came over the horizon.

“Since then, teachers have been thrust into the frontline, dealing with conditions that no other group has been asked to tolerate. It will be no surprise if absences this year are even higher."

Read more: Outcry over NHS Scotland senior mental health vacancies

Just last week, the Scottish Lib Dems shone a spotlight on mental health staff shortages, revealing data also obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

According to that report, 82 of the 632 senior mental health staff vacancies across the Scottish NHS currently remain unfilled – a number that drew the ire of SMP, Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Cole-Hamilton described the numbers as revealing "gaping holes" in national mental health staffing and called for more funding and planning from the government to fill them.

Similar calls for investment were made late last year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists following a report from Public Health Scotland that revealed a two-decade high in numbers of mental health inpatients across the country.

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