Teachers bolt jobs over mental angst

Stress, depression behind twentyfold 10-year increase in resignations of first-year educators

The number of first-year teachers who left their job for health reasons has increased twentyfold over the past 10 years, with most citing apparent emotional issues, an education ministry survey has found.

According to the survey, conducted on 25,743 public school teachers who began working in fiscal 2010, 101 voluntarily left within a year for “health” reasons, mainly depression and stress, compared with five in fiscal 2000.

Ninety-one of the 101 who quit were suffering emotional issues such as depression, the ministry said Tuesday.

“We believe (those teachers) suffered from a gap between reality and what they imagined before they start working. . . . Some were believed to have trouble dealing with difficult parents. Some may have suffered from human relationships at their workplaces,” education ministry official Masashi Izumino told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

Starting in fiscal 2009, the ministry began investigating the mental health of teachers who quit within a year. In the first survey, 83 of 86 who quit did so reportedly due to such apparent psychological troubles.

Of the 91 teachers last year who quit for such reasons, Tokyo had the highest number, with 29, followed by Chiba Prefecture with six and Aichi Prefecture with five.

Stress has been an issue not only among new teachers but veterans as well in recent years.

According to an education ministry report last year, 8,627 public school teachers took a leave of absence for health reasons in fiscal 2009. Of these, 5,458, or 63.3 percent, did so due to psychological problems.

The number of teachers taking temporary leave for mental health reasons has been steadily rising since fiscal 2000, the report said. While 0.24 percent of public school teachers took a leave of absence in fiscal 2000, the percentage rose to 0.60 in fiscal 2009, it said.