HALF of teachers say the stress of the classroom is taking a toll on their mental wellbeing, as a survey today reveals the scale of depression and anxiety on the profession.

A survey by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland found that a high number of teachers believed the pressures of the job had led them to experience episodes of psychological and emotional distress, with 51% saying that the felt it had exacerbated an existing mental health problem such as depression or anxiety or to develop symptoms.

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Alarm over teachers' mental health comes as pupils appear to be struggling more than ever with their own wellbeing, with referrals to NHS Child and and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Scotland up 20% since 2015.

A majority (71%) of teachers said they were also worried that they lacked the training to help them address mental health concerns with pupils, and only 13 per cent have received Mental Health First Aid training.

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Only one in three believe that the 'Health and Wellbeing' pillar of the Curriculum for Excellence is taught with the same commitment as reading, writing and numeracy in their school, despite it being a key plank of the new curriculum.

The findings come amid a recruitment and retention crisis blighting the teaching workforce and an ongoing row over pay which threatens to culminate in national strikes and school closures, with teachers' morale said to be at an all-time low.

Among those responding to the survey, 26% said they are unable to access prompt support and guidance if they are concerned about a pupil’s mental wellbeing, with only 24% of schools having any mental health support worker in place - either full-time or visiting.

Nearly all teachers - 85% - said mental health training would help them look after their own emotional wellbeing as well as that of their pupils.

The findings are based on a survey of 1000 teachers by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, to which 418 responded.

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The charity also undertook focus group research with primary and secondary school teachers in four separate locations across Scotland.

Toni Giugliano, policy manager at the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “Our research also shows that around half of teachers have struggled with their own mental health due to the pressures of their job.

"It’s clear that investing in training will not only benefit pupils but will help teachers look after their own emotional health.

"Stress in adults can often leak into young minds, which is why addressing teacher mental health is equally important.

"We need a 'whole-school approach' where pupils and staff can support one another to thrive.

“Young people are under enormous pressures to succeed but schools can’t be driven by exam results alone – young people's social and emotional development is just as important.

"We need mental health support workers present in every school, quality [Personal and Social Education] lessons that explore the root causes of emotional distress and classrooms that measure levels of wellbeing to pick up problems early."

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Investigations by the Herald previously revealed there were 670 teacher vacancies at primaries and secondaries across Scotland at the start of the current school year, and that around 1000 teachers under-40 had quit the profession in the past two years.

Shortages of teachers in key subjects such as science, maths and computing, as well as in rural areas, have been increasing over the past three years.

A spokesman for the largest Scottish teaching union, the EIS, said: "In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of teachers experiencing mental health issues including a marked increase in stress-related mental health conditions.

"Reductions in teacher numbers and cuts to support staff have heaped additional workload pressures on teachers, with serious implications for their wellbeing.

"This can only be addressed through investment in staff, resources and professional development to ensure that teachers and pupils can access appropriate support when needed."

Cyberbullying, exam pressures and social media have all been blamed for the rise of problems such as depression and anxiety in young people.

A spokesman for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition said: "With half of mental health problems in adulthood begin for the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 24, this highlights the vital need for prevention and early intervention and that needs equipping teachers with the resources they need to adequately support those with mental health problems."

The Scottish Government has promised to have counsellors in every secondary school by 2022, as well as an extra 250 school nurses.

A spokesman said: “Education is our number one priority and we recognise the pressures and challenges facing teachers, such as those highlighted by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland.

"That is why we have taken action to reduce teacher workloads, clarifying and simplifying the curriculum framework and removing unnecessary bureaucracy.

“As part of our Programme for Government we have committed to wide ranging actions to better support children's and young people's mental health and wellbeing.

“In addition to counselling through schools we have committed to further teachers and school staff understanding of mental health and wellbeing through specific resources to support training.

"This is in addition to the work already underway on the provision of mental health first aid training for schools.”