SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Teacher Depression in New York City

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Teacher Depression in New York City

I have been reading MORE's demands for the new contract and find most of it pretty logical and to the point. But one thing is lacking.

Where is the demand supporting teachers with mental health and substance abuse issues?

We live in a country that;
Major Depression Disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

Anxiety Disorder affects approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.

Dysthymic Disorder affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, This figure translates to about 3.3 million American adults.

Panic Disorder affects approximately 6 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 2.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have panic disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have PTSD.
Alcohol Abuse; 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.  

So one has to figure that of almost 80,000 teachers in NYC, that statistically teachers skew towards the general population and fit the above numbers. 

Yet nothing is done. There is no help for teachers, for staff that are facing the above DISEASES. Yes, the above are diseases. The above are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yet, teachers and staff are left to go it alone. No support, no where to turn for help, and no one to admit it to. We can't even trust who we consider our "best friend" in our schools.

Yeah, we all know the old argument, "We can't let these people near our children." Then if so, any parent suffering with the above diseases should lose their parental rights, no? Or even better, why can the NYPD offer services to its own?

NYPD offers two services that The Crack Team know of. There is the Early Intervention Unit which offers peer intervention and support. For police officers suffering from the disease of alcohol abuse there is what is known as "The Farm," in which police officers are given the chance of rehab.

But, and please this is no attack against police officers, cops carry guns. Not just regular hand guns, but other weapons as well. A cop is your first line of defense or your first line at the criminal justice system. Do not cops carry the burden of "your life is in their hands?" Just as important as the jobs teachers do, and possibly even more so.

Yet we all the pressures over teachers over the last ten years, all the top down pressure put on them, the abuse, mental and physical, where can a teacher turn to? Where is our support system other than being told to "suck it up and deal with it?"

There are too many teachers swimming against the tide, too many teachers who feel isolated, to many teachers that are drowning inside, too many teachers that are crying for support, for a friend, for help starting the next day and nothing is being done.

Teachers are no super heroes. We have real feelings and real emotions. If you prick us, do we not bleed? Or are we supposed to keep our blood inside?

For the UFT and the DOE to work together on this would be groundbreaking. That's why The Crack Team is calling on the MORE caucus to lead the way in adding this onto its contract demands and to bring this up in the next DA.

We are our brothers and sisters keepers.


Anonymous said...

...and what about the mentally disabled school principals and their ap's. Mental illness does not discriminate. And these are the people who observe and grade teachers. Imagine a mentally disturbed principal doing a Danielson on you! Getting through 22 domains would need some heavy doses of psychotropic medication. As you already know, many need to go downtown to be medically fit to enter a school...let alone run one!

Pete Zucker said...

Yeah, I thought about that, but that is why I threw in the word staff.

Francesco Portelos said...

When I first came under attack I was blindsided. I actually called UFT Members Assistance Program and meet with their counselor. She was nice and listened. Later on I went to a therapist who now tells me he needs a therapist.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for finally mentioning one of the many elephants in the living room here at the DOE. I was assaulted in the classroom three times in two years. This last assault has left me with a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and an accompanying major depression. I am terrified of going into my building, the scene of three assaults on me, and many others on my fellow teachers. I have nightmares about being shot and beaten by my students while admin sits by marking a checklist on an iPad. My depression is so deep that I can barely get out of bed in the morning - I sleep well past lunchtime on most days where it is possible, and have essentially lost all interest in self-care, hobbies, and other usual interests. I can barely parent my kids, and as a result, my home life and marriage are now in a shambles. I await the day I am forced back to work, because requests for hardship transfers have been denied and my UFT district reps say that they have no power in helping me secure a transfer because, as a result of giving up transfer rights in '05, staff decisions are strictly the realm of principals and there is no more simply placing a teacher in another building for any reason. I have simply been told to try on the Open Market when it opens in April and to "try to tough it out" until then. I got one call from a social worker from Victim's Support, who said we would have a phone conference weekly at a certain day and time. She called once at the agreed upon time. I have not heard from her again. Looks like I will have to find my own way out of this miserable living hell and hope when I do I am still employed and not in bankruptcy or divorced.

Patrick Walsh said...

Well done.

Anonymous said...

I have used UFT Member Assistance Program in the past when dealing with some of the issues you mention. After reading your post I spoke to a friend of mine who is a police officer. The programs you mention are covered as part of our health insurance or through the member assistance program of the UFT.
I think that it is not that the programs are out there to support our members, but rather that we don't promote them within our school buildings the way they should be. MAP is a great resource to help hook our members up with the supports they need. I now they were more than helpful when I needed them.
Most of us have some coverage of mental health issues covered as part of our health insurance as well.
People do not take advantage of these services because of the stigma behind mental illness. It is important that we encourage people to take advantage of these services and remember that at some point we all need a shoulder to lean on. This blog post I feel is less a demand that needs to be made in contract negotiations and more a demand we need to make to change the social stigmas surrounding mental health and care in the greater community around us.