Teaching is a tough profession, but it’s also a field that builds community and fosters close relationships.
I suspect that’s one of the reasons educators have the lowest suicide rate of any profession, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Another reason may be teachers are always thinking of others and focused on the future.
According to the newly released data, the suicide rate among Americans employed in education, training and library jobs was 7.5 per 100,000 workers, the lowest of 22 occupations in the CDC report.
The highest suicide rate — 84.5 suicides per 100,000 workers — occurred among those with farming, fishing, and forestry jobs. While the report doesn’t explore why these professions have such a markedly higher suicide rate, it suggests possible reasons — job-related isolation and demands, stressful work environments, work-home imbalance, lower incomes and education levels and lack of access to health services.
The challenges facing teachers may be unrelenting in today’s environment of hyper accountability and über testing, but there is a supportive flank, colleagues in the faculty lounge with whom to complain, compare and commiserate.
In a new book about the profession, “Teacher Misery,” author Jane Morris shares the daily aggravations of teaching, from teens commenting on her skirts — too baggy — to audacious requests, “I checked with my counselor this morning and she said she didn’t get the recommendation form I gave you yesterday! It is due today and I need it. Do the form TODAY!”
So, why does Morris stay in teaching?
“Sometimes, teaching is impossibly hard and heartbreaking and infuriating and sometimes (though much less often) it is amazing, fun, and inspiring. But it is never boring or ordinary or reasonable. And it is always hilarious…Somehow, in the end, the great and inspiring moments (though few and far between) outweigh the absurdity. Teaching is an incredible profession that can potentially give one’s life meaning. ”
That sentiment was echoed in a national survey of teachers released in May by the Center on Education Policy. While teachers expressed diminishing enthusiasm for their jobs and higher stress, most said making a difference in their students’ lives and seeing students succeed academically were among the most rewarding aspects of teaching.
There may be a far more basic reason why teachers have lower suicide rates than other professions — better preventive and mental health care. Several educators told me either they or their colleagues depend on antidepressants.
What do you think explains the lower suicide rates among educators?