An angry parent sent me the link to Stuff’s article entitled “Mentally ill teachers investigated by Watchdog“. She was upset at the entire tone of the article and in particular that the ill-informed journalist had declared Aspergers to be a mental illness. It is not.
Then I saw the article shared in a home schooling group as an explanation for why that particular parent chose to home school.
I then heard from a few teachers who have suffered or are suffering with depression, who were very upset that the article implied they might be a danger to children and not able to do their jobs.
This all in the space of half an hour.
So I read the article to see what the fuss was about, and by crikey it was enough to send the best of us into a rant. The journalist makes leaping conclusions that would impress Dick Fosbury himself. He lumps together drug and alcohol addictions, neurological disorders such as Asperger’s, mental illness such as depression and anxiety and more as if they are one and the same. They are not.
At a time when there is such a push to understand mental illness, addiction, and spectrum disorders, Stuff’s article does all a disservice. At best, linking them together as one is inaccurate – at worst it is incredibly damaging.
Stuff faced a barrage of complaints, both on their web page and on social media, and some have sent in formal written complaints. Stuff’s response was to tone down the title of the article so that it read “Nearly 100 mentally-ill teachers investigated by the Education Council in the past six years” Sorry, Stuff, but that token gesture doesn’t cut it.
As Aaryn Niuapu noted in his article, “Using a 0.099% statistic to demonize teachers and mental health is more than irresponsible or lazy, it is unprincipled.”
The one good thing in all of this is the comments section under the Stuff article. (Yes, you read that right!) Most people could see the flaws in the journalist’s article and were understanding of the various issues discussed in the article. A lot of patience and understanding for mental illness is demonstrated, and many make it clear that Asperger’s is not a mental illness.
It’s not often I say this, but thank goodness for the comments section.
Stuff, you need to apologise.
Teachers with mental illness investigated, by Al Ingram
The perils of reporting on mental heath, by Jess McAllen
Under Pressure, by John Palethorpe
Teacher stress, depression and suicide, by Dianne Khan