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Teachers lost 7 million days due to stress over the past 5 years

Image of teacher at front of classroom
Taylor Wilcox | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

According to newly released figures, teachers collectively have lost 1.5 million days to stress and mental illness this year, 7% more than a year ago and just under 20% more than three years ago.

The data was obtained by the Liberal Democrats from 143 of 152 Local Education Authorities in England and Wales using the Freedom of Information Act.

The figures revealed a startling 7 million days lost to stress and mental health over the past five years for teachers.

A steady trend of increasing days off required for mental health can be observed over the past three years, with COVID putting increased strain on teachers that have already been struggling due to chronic underfunding.

Different areas saw different trends in how many days were lost, with Kent losing the most teacher days – 91,679 – between 2021 and 2022.

“These figures show a growing mental health epidemic among our teachers, who have been under unimaginable pressure over the past few years," said education spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Munira Wilson MP.

“Far too many teachers are facing burnout from unsustainable workloads and relentless pressure. Parents will be rightly worried about the terrible knock-on impact this could have on the education and well-being of our children.

“The new Education Secretary must set out a clear plan to reverse the years of damage to the mental health and well-being of teachers, and to help recruit and retain the staff we need."

US prisoners with mental illness more likely to be forced into solitary confinement

A new study published by Boston University has found that prisoners in the US with a mental illness are three-times more likely to be forced into solitary confinement, a form of punitive punishment used throughout the US prison system.

The study analysed the data of 90,000 individuals incarcerated from 2007 to 2016 in Pennsylvania, where the prison population is demographically representative compared with the national prison population.

Results found that an individual with a severe mental illness would spend three-times more time in solitary confinement than those without, experiencing often and prolonged durations alone in a cell.

Furthermore, it was found that this disproportionate punishment resulted from the large volume of ‘misconduct tickets’ prison staff warranted to prisoners, mostly for non-violent misconduct such as being defiant or making threats.

It was also found that of the female prison population, 64% had a persisting mental health diagnosis, meaning over half the female prison population is at high risk of suffering this form of punishment.

‘With people in prison confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day, often denied visitors and phone calls, solitary confinement is an important test case for studying harsh treatment in prisons," said assistant professor of Sociology and lead researcher Jessica Simes. "Routinely used as punishment for prison infractions, this type of confinement may be subject to the same forces that criminalise people with mental health problems in community settings."

Co-author and professor of Sociology Bruce Western added:

"Our results are consistent with a process of cumulative disadvantage operating in prisons in which the stigma of mental illness affects decisions at each stage of the prison discipline process.

‘The mental health disparities we found, combined with evidence that isolation in incarceration exacerbates mental illness, underline the extreme potential for institutional harm associated with solitary confinement, and show how US prisons heap the harshest forms of punishment on the most vulnerable."

Solitary confinement is also used in the UK, but governors that keep prisoners in solitary confinement for over 72 hours are breaking the lawno such protections exist in the US prison system.

Talking to your doctor about mental health gets easier over time

Talking with your doctor about your mental health gets easier with time, according to a new survey.

Conducted by NPS Medicine Wise, the survey consisted of 309 Australians aged 16–24 with a mental health diagnosis, a sample considered to be representative of the young population with a mental health illness.

The results found that almost half (47%) felt uncomfortable discussing their mental health illness with their doctor when first diagnosed, but over time this figure fell to 31% still feeling uncomfortable at the time of the survey.

Worryingly the findings also revealed that close to one fifth (18%) were not involved in treatment decisions and only 44% felt equal to their doctor in the work done for their mental health, breaking a practice highly recommended by NICE and other organisations for mental health treatment.

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