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Education, Stress & Depression

Teacher stress, depression and suicide


It concerns me that so many teachers now talk of stress, depression, and  the need to get out of the profession for their health.   It is not light-hearted when teachers talk of being unhappy then add in “… thank goodness for the kids.”  Sometimes the children are all that are keeping a teacher going.


But why are teachers so stressed?

Often the stress is blamed on the constant changes, not because of the changes themselves but because there is little faith the changes are well thought out or improve student achievement and so it feels like a lot of extra work for no good reason, often at the expense of time to do other work that the teacher feels is more valuable.

People will tolerate a lot when they can see value in it – conversely, they are weighed down by what feels valueless.

There is also a feeling that teachers have no say in the direction that education is taking, and little to no control of their own profession. When I asked a group of teachers whether they would send in submissions against the Education Amendment Bill (2), they asked what’s the point, citing that thousands of submissions against charter schools were simply ignored.

Teachers feel helpless – done to rather than part of.


To what degree is teacher health suffering?

Well that’s just it – I’m not sure that anyone is researching this.  If there are any studies under way looking at stress and depression in relation to New Zealand teachers, please do let me know.  You might wonder why we need to research the problem?  And what we might want to ask?

What I think we need to ask is this:

– are teachers happy in their jobs?

– do teachers feel supported and well looked after?

– are they considering leaving the profession due to stress/ill health?

– has the rate and direction of education reforms in NZ over the past few years had an impact on teacher health?

– Do you feel there is more of a problem now than five or ten years ago?

Something that concerns me very much is that in the UK that teacher suicide rates are now around 40% higher than for ‘all occupations’.  Is it the same here in Aotearoa?   Despite being a very difficult subject, it is something we have to confront.  NZ already has a serious problem with high depression and suicide rates, and no-one wants to see that get worse.

Another thing to be aware of is that there is anecdotal evidence that when a teacher in England is looking for critical illness insurance cover it is only available if mental conditions and stress-related illness are excluded.  Do teachers in NZ have similar problems?  I know of at least one teacher who is no longer covered for mental health since having time off due to stress – is that widespread?

It really is something we need to keep an eye on.  The last thing we need is a depressed profession – just imagine the impact that would have on individual lives and on the quality of education.  It would be a lose/lose situation that no-one would want to see happen

[Edit 15/4/16] SOSNZ have set up a small survey regarding NZ teachers’ emotional wellbeing and would welcome your input. The article and survey can be found here.

Getting Help

If you feel stressed, do not leave it until it gets worse.  If you are on edge, not sleeping, feeling edgy or tearful, dreading work, and so on, then you owe it to yourself to get support and help immediately.  Please do not feel you have to plod on alone – you don’t. Talk to people close to you, if you can, discuss the problems with a supportive manager, speak with your doctor, and make use of support services that are available (below).

If you recognise someone is stressed, please reach out to them and offer support and help.  They may just need an ear.  You could point them to the help listed below.  Either way, they will welcome your kind support and it makes all the difference to know that people understand and care.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP):

Free counselling is available for most NZ teachers. The program gives staff access to three sessions of free confidential counselling and advice each year that is either face-to-face, via telephone, or online chat.  EAP registered practitioners can help with  relationship breakdowns, alcohol and drug issues, workplace bullying, family issues, depression, financial stress and personal trauma.  Check whether your school is subscribed to the EAP as part of their Health and Safety strategy.  You can book online.

Other help:

Below is a list of other New Zealand services that offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.

  • Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757
  • Healthline – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • What’s Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) – 0800 942 8787
  • Child Helpline – (for 5-18 year olds; 9am – 7pm daily) – 0800 366 694 or email
  • – includes The Journal online help service
  • – visit the website, email or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between 12 noon and 12 midnight).
  • OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) (provides confidential telephone support for sexuality or gender identity issues).

If you’re outside of New Zealand, you can find help near you through this international list of crisis centres.

Lastly, please look after yourself and others.  It’s not the easiest time to be teaching, but you owe it to yourself to stay well.

Sources and further reading

PPTA Bulletin – Stress at work

EAP Services

The Mental Health Foundation 


About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


14 thoughts on “Teacher stress, depression and suicide

  1. Reblogged this on My Thinks and commented:
    Teacher stress and where to get help.


    Posted by boonman | April 15, 2014, 4:05 pm
  2. We don’t need more management jobs!!! We need people who are working with our children who need some one-one approach, besides their normal time in the classroom. Those are the children the teachers worry about. Those are the children we can reach if we have people who can take some time out with them. Children need to be listened to, so we can meet their needs and then we can reach their potential.(and lift standards) NOT WITH MANAGEMENT JOBS!!
    We need field workers to take some of the load of the teachers!!


    Posted by Mary heerikhuisen-Beekman | April 15, 2014, 8:07 pm
  3. I think one of the biggest components of teacher stress is time – or rather, lack of time. We are expected to fit so much into our non-contact time.
    But when certain kinds of management choose to fill up that time with meetings on top of all the other meetings, planning, sorting, making, marking, filing, putting away, collecting…. teachers need to do… well, then time becomes a problem.
    We then find the planning and the making and the marking gets pushed into the time that should be spent on family and friends and exercise/leisure activities and housework and those other jobs.
    Everything gets compressed… relationships suffer, the house looks a bombsite, health suffers… we tend to prioritise our class and our work-life balance tips…. and stress compounds.
    We’re only human. Let us be humans please.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Melanie Dorrian | April 30, 2014, 10:00 am
    • I totally agree, it has cost me the relationship between me and my son. Why? Because when he was 3 years old, I was out doing teacher practicums and being made to stay behind after hours to ‘experience’ teacher responsibilities. I knew right then and then that this was what it was going to be like, a full on, MORE THAN FULL TIME job. But I wanted to help children learn, YOUR children people, we as teachers actually care about them. BUT there is a dark side….. it robbed me of my life from my son. As a solo mother with a son… my so called dedication to my job robbed me from spending time with my son to do homework together, to watch a movie together, to go camping together….. slowly my job took over my life without me knowing. Stupid fucking management fooled me into thinking I was going to take this role on, or get that promotion…. I gave up on all that… but still struggle trying to bring my relationship back with my son. He’s 11 now and he’s never really had a relationship with me like most kids do with their mothers…. his has always been working or stressing out on covering the bills.


      Posted by Corlene Greenwood | September 14, 2016, 7:58 pm
  4. I discuss my personal experiences with stress (and distress) at length in my book: You can see the TVNZ programme about my experiences here:


    Posted by Gregg Smith | May 29, 2014, 11:50 am
  5. In 2011, an Illinois teacher named Mary Eve Thorson stood in front of a moving semi-truck an ended her like on Thanksgiving Day. I am the director/producer of the documentary, DYING TO TEACH: The Killing of Mary Eve Thorson, “Educators Who Bully”. The film was requested by Save Our Schools for its conference in Washington, D.C. in August of 2012. I have received countless letters from teachers across the country requesting copies of the film. I decided to place it on Vimeo for any interested teachers, future teachers, and parents. I am providing the link. There is no cost involved to watch or download the film. Please pass it along. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Myra Richardson | October 20, 2014, 11:52 am
  6. Good morning Dianne,
    I have posted the link to the documentary on your facebook page; I am doing the same here. Mary died so that teachers and children could be protected. She wanted this issue to reach the public. It amazes me that teachers are continuing to commit suicide. I’m certain it’s because this matter still isn’t given the attention that it warrants. How sad when we are more concerned with stars and who they choose to keep company with, than what’s happening to teachers in front of our children. It’s shameful!

    The documentary link:

    Introduction of film and topic in Washington, D.C. at Save Our Schools conference:

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Myra Richardson | November 13, 2014, 4:55 am
  7. Reblogged this on NolArtist.


    Posted by nolartist | May 20, 2015, 1:33 pm


  1. Pingback: Dear education minister, please don’t send your condolences | Save Our Schools NZ - May 1, 2014

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