Stressed teachers suffer in silence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am


Up to 40 per cent of teachers suffer anxiety because of work stress, but most of them say they are too busy to seek expert help, a study has found.

The online study, conducted in November and December last year, showed that teachers work an average of 11.6 hours a day and spent about 2.6 more hours on work-related training or studies.

Of the 530 teachers interviewed, it was found that on average they have time for only six hours sleep a day, and can spend only half an hour to have a meal. Their social lives are also curtailed as they can find only 1.7 hours a week to meet friends.

The Support Centre for Teachers' Mental Health, which released the study yesterday, urged the government to allocate more resources to make teachers' jobs less stressful. One way was to reduce class sizes.

'In overseas countries, seeking help from a psychologist is not a big deal,' James Hon Lin-shan, a supervisor at the centre, said.

'But in Hong Kong, if you tell people you are seeing a psychologist, people will think you are suffering mental illness. As a teacher, his or her main job is to teach students. But nowadays, many teachers are occupied by administrative work because of new requirements under the government's education reforms.'

After assessing the teachers' responses to questions in the study, the centre believed 202 of them had started developing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, of which general symptoms could include feelings of panic, problems of sleeping and muscle tension.

Responding to the study's findings about stress, the Education Bureau said it had been keeping in contact with schools to find out the type of difficulties teachers faced. The bureau said it had organised stress management courses and activities for teachers.

Meanwhile, a separate poll by Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups found that almost 30 per cent of the 1,383 secondary school pupils interviewed said they were under intense pressure in the run-up to the new school term.

The common sources of pressure were 'need to cope with new courses' (71 per cent), 'public examinations' (42 per cent), and 'not adapt to new school environment' (36 per cent).


The average number of hours per day that teachers work, according to the support group that conducted the survey