Why do you think educators have the lowest suicide rate of any profession?

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?

Reader Comments 0

43 comments
Your Teacher
Your Teacher

Because I'm sure that I would be expected, from the grave, to write lesson plans for when I'm out. 

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Men commit suicide at 3 times the rate of women.


teaching is still (sadly) a female dominated field.


Not sure why we needed a CDC study to figure out the suicide rate in teaching would be less than male dominated fields.  

someonesdad
someonesdad

Because they're either killed by their students or the hopelessness of trying to educate those students.

teachermom4
teachermom4

Aside from being predominantly female, teachers are usually helpers and problem solvers. Suicide doesn't help anyone and it sure doesn't solve problems.

Caroline Reid Crow
Caroline Reid Crow

Because we think of the kids first. Ours in the home and ours in the classroom.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Why do educators have the lowest suicide rate?

Because they're in a living hell right now and know that, if they commit suicide, they'll have to spend the rest of eternity there?

USMC2841
USMC2841

Most teachers I know don't have enough free time to plan a suicide.

Kathy Jo Richey Marnell
Kathy Jo Richey Marnell

Teaching and counseling are purposeful endeavors. As I look back on my career, I know the many lives I have touched and often hear from students years later who are surprised to hear how they touched mine, as well.

eulb
eulb

This is my favorite get schooled blog column & set of comments in recent memory.  I had no idea the teacher suicide rate is so low, and I would not have anticipated some of the reasons offered here.  I learned something today!  So, thank you, MD & commenters.

Beth Day
Beth Day

It is a profession with a noble purpose. I think that is psychologically protective. I wish everyone had this gift in their professional lives.

Lisa Eckman
Lisa Eckman

My question is....which professions are we comparing teaching with?

redweather
redweather

It might be that teachers are more accepting of their limitations, which is something of an occupational necessity since they are reminded of those limitations on an almost daily basis. As a result, they may not be subject to the kind of numbing despair that is often a concomitant of suicide. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Teachers are generally people with a can-do, I-can-make-a-difference attitude.  Feelings of self-efficacy are dispositive toward an inclination to harm oneself.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I'm willing to bet that teachers have some of the highest rates of TMJ, however.

Astropig
Astropig

I can't pretend to know why something doesn't happen,but I'm sure glad in this case that it doesn't. The hurt from a suicide in your family never really goes away. About the best you can hope for is that the memory fades.

Melissa Payne
Melissa Payne

We can't afford to leave our families behind to deal with the aftermath.

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

Gender.

Teaching is a female-dominated field, while "farming, fishing, and forestry" are male dominated fields.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@FredinDeKalb @dsw2contributor Are you positing that women are weenies?


I don't think women, IN GENERAL, are as likely to turn to violence as a solution for much of anything, in any case. I suspect we are more conditioned to "make things work."

Amy Fields Layfield
Amy Fields Layfield

Because we know that it would devastate our students and hurt them immensely.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I recall that the principal of my elementary school, when I was about 7, tried to slit his throat with a can opener (the old-fashioned kind) and I remember hearing the adults talk about it. Yeah, it was pretty scary.

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

Teaching was the least stressful job I have had as an adult. I knew the exact amount of my compensation and it wasn't affected by job performance, great hours, no weekends, no life or death situations, no worrying about the bottom line, so much time off, same schedule as my children, good health insurance and retirement, job security, etc.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Can I teach where you taught?  However, I doubt this was recently.  When I first began teaching (1973) it was much less stressful, also.  Not for the same reasons you name, however.  I am pretty sure your list was largely in jest.

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

I did not say teaching is stress free and insurance is a mess for most working people. Teaching is a a challenging and rewarding career choice, but it's not third shift in the ER.

Bill Curtis
Bill Curtis

When did you teach? The 70's, 80's, early 90's? No way you have taught in recent years if you have not had to worry about bottom lines, think teachers have good health insurance, teachers work great hours with week ends off, no life of death situations. Teachers these days can't always depend on an exact amount of pay due to furlough days that greatly reduce their pay. Teachers DO worry about the bottom line. It is called student growth, graduation rates, and teacher effectiveness. Teachers DO NOT have great health insurance. In many cases they school system provides insurance but teachers have to pay the full monthly premium. Teachers DO have long work days. In many cases they work 12 - 14+ hour days. They also work weekends often sacrificing valuable family time. Unless you have been under a rock there have been many cases when school were forced to go in lock down because some idiot in the area threatens harm to some one in or near a school. Yes, Teachers have basically the same schedule as students but there are times when child care is a problem for teachers. Keep in mind teachers are under contract to teach 10 months. However, during that 10 month period, teachers experience high levels of stress just as other people do during the same 10 month period. I challenge you to step into a classroom today and experience the "Stress free" life of a teacher.

Bill Curtis
Bill Curtis

Renee Lord no teaching is not 3rd shift in the ER. You were simply implying that teaching was a piece of cake.

Karen Greene
Karen Greene

Teachers feel a responsibility to their students and community.

trifecta_
trifecta_

It isn't odd that teachers are, on the whole, a happy lot given the pay, benefits, job security and 2-3 months of yearly vacation.

What's odd is how so many blog posters pretend otherwise.

Falcaints
Falcaints

@trifecta_ We don't get paid for days not on contract, so we don't have 2-3 months of vacation.  Nor do we have unions in Georgia if that was to be your next comment.

BRV
BRV

Eduk8tr - Speaking of pretending ... There is voluminous evidence that teachers have very high self-reported rates of job dissatisfaction. Historically so in the case of the Gallup longitudinal survey. Teaching has a low suicide rate because it's an overwhelmingly female profession and women commit suicide far less frequently than men do.

Lori Cranford Whatley
Lori Cranford Whatley

Because if some of our students didn't have us, there would be no one to look out for them. Gives you a great reason to keep on keeping on!!!!

Leila Saffaf Warren
Leila Saffaf Warren

Teaching takes your mind off of your troubles. When I have 150+ students who need me I don't have time to worry about the fight I had with my husband or the bills I have to pay. I am needed. No matter all the bull that goes with teaching, when I close my classroom door I have a purpose. But let's be clear too and not undermine true psychiatric problems. I am also not clinically depressed and that keeps me alive too!

Michelle Hora Mickens
Michelle Hora Mickens

Because they make us better. On my worst day, the kids make me feel better. In high school, kids have soooo much to deal with. It makes our problems seem so much smaller. It's why I teach, and it's also why, even when I want to, I'll never leave the profession.

eliza
eliza

Educators have the ability to live in the now and also view the future. We can see the hope that other people miss. There are so many excellent educators that make a tremendous difference in the lives of others. The impact that an educator can make is tremendous. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@eliza


It is in giving that we receive.  Educators know this, perhaps, better than most.  That is a psychologically sound way to perceive.

Bob Fuse
Bob Fuse

Does it have any thing to do with the Master Teacher?