1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Threatened for having a panic attack...

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by Hellsbelle21, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. Hellsbelle21

    Hellsbelle21 New commenter

    I need some advice as i have been unable to locate anything sufficient online. Please bear with me as its a long(ish) story but I really need some thoughts on the issue:

    This year I was diagnosed with complex post traumatic stress disorder and mild depression. I am taking an anti depressant and took 2 weeks off school to acclimatise to the drug. I have been feeling much better since then and have not missed any more work days.

    However, 2 weeks ago I was extremely worried about a particular non school related issue and it caused me to back track a little. I felt stressed and anxious and although I was able to go about all of my normal school duties I knew that in myself I was not 100%.

    It was a difficult school week due to it being cross curricular (meaning teaching all different students across the whole school new and sometimes non specialist lessons) and on one of those mornings I felt the walls closing in. I had a free and was due to teach 3 more lessons that day but I decided to ask a colleague who had a very light timetable that week if he could cover me for my first lesson - just so that I could compose myself. He did not want to and suggested that I ask my HOD to find me a cover. I told him it was fine and I went back to my classroom where I started to have a panic attack (the classroom was empty).
    Another HOD was walking by and saw me so came to my aid and helped me through the attack (lots of shortness of breath and crying). She then sought a cover for my first lesson and this allowed me to gather myself sufficiently that I felt well enough to teach my next lesson.

    However, I was about 15 minutes into this lesson when she and my HOD took me out of my lesson to have a meeting with just the three of us. I was then told by my HOD in this private meeting that what I had done was extremely unprofessional and that I should have communicated my need for cover with her instead of asking a colleague to do it. I was told that I was a health and safety risk to my students by going into that lesson and that they should have reported me to the AP but they were going to keep it between us as long as it never happened again.

    At the time I was too shook up by the whole thing to fully assess what had happened but now looking back I am not sure as to whether this meeting was approproate. I have since had another issue of unprofessionalism regarding my HOD which led to me having another panic attack (at the weekend) and I have been looking for legal advice online regarding my rights and responsibilities as a teacher with a menal health disorder.

    All thoughts and advice appreciated.
  2. Calpurnia99

    Calpurnia99 Star commenter

    What a cow. Thanks for the support - not. So you made a slight error of judgement that affected no-one whilst suffering a panic attack. No sympathy for your predicament, just a jobsworth snipe about protocol.
    I don't know what your legal position is but several people on here do, so I hope they see this. Have you posted on Workplace Dilemmas?
    Presumably if your HT/HOD knows that you have these mental health issues, they could have handled it more professionally? If you have a union rep, I'd get in touch as a matter of urgency, and under no circumstances attend any more meetings without your rep or a trusted friend with you. Get the friend to visibly take notes.She has a duty of care and presumably nothing has been discussed with you or put in place to support you after your absence. At any further meeting, gently remind her of that and brightly suggest a workable system just in case it happens again. Did you have a return to work interview?

    I was unwell for some time with anxiety and panic attacks in the 90s. It's not uncommon for things to improve and then something trivial set it off again - 10 steps forward, 2 steps back. These episodes diminish with time but you're still quite new to it. Things like this don't help.
    bonxie, phlogiston and pepper5 like this.
  3. Hellsbelle21

    Hellsbelle21 New commenter

    Thanks for your reply! I have spoken to my union but it wasn't a very productive conversation. They agreed that the meeting should have been handled more sensitively but that I should have communicated my need for cover directly to my HOD.

    I had no return to work interview - at least not officially. I feel quite let down by my department over all and I have lost trust and faith in the school as a place where my health is considered a priority over correct procedure. I have started putting feelers out for a new position but as I have missed the deadline for September, any position I do consider will have to be in the new year.
  4. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    In retrospect (and at a distance on a forum), it's easy to say what you should have done. At the time, anxiety was probably affecting your logic, and your attempted low key resolution of the problem came off badly.
    Given that you probably only have a couple of days of term left, my advice is to try to remain calm and get through them, if this means sick leave, then have the time out.
    You probably need to have an appointment with your GP or specialist and reflect on the best way forward. You have a six week breathing space when you don't have to finalise any decisions even if you make them.
    Best wishes
  5. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    No further advice, but wanted to say how horrendous this behaviour was, on the part of the senior staff member.

    Unbelievable that you'd gone through a panic attack, and STILL soldiered on to teach your next lesson, yet somehow were told off for it!

    How unfeeling.

    I hope you're feeling much better now. Enjoy your holidays xx
    galerider123 and pepper5 like this.
  6. Cooperuk

    Cooperuk Senior commenter

    Those who don't suffer from anxiety often cannot comprehend the difficulties it creates.

    Some, even less emotionally literate, seem to have little comprehension that their unfeeling responses make the situation worse.

    My sympathies. I've been in a similar circumstance.

    The union probably can't do much in the short term, but if further harassment / nastiness occurs, they can. Make sure you document everything.
    pepper5 likes this.
  7. rayondesoleil1976

    rayondesoleil1976 Occasional commenter

    Try thinking logically in the middle of a panic attack... I thought colleagues were meant to have each other's backs. I also am not a fan of the 'you're a professional' get out clause. We're also humans with lives outside of school. I hope you get more support than you have been shown.
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. Urbanfaerie

    Urbanfaerie Occasional commenter

    Sorry to hear they were so unsympathetic. My advice would be to continue to have everything medical noted (GP visits etc) and to ask for a second person in future meetings.
    Yes, it might have been better to ask your HOD, but one isn't thinking at full strength in the middle of a panic attack.
    Given that you have a recognised health condition, what support has your school put in place?
  9. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    What a total fucknugget!

    I hope this term has got off to a better stat OP, if not come join us in Workplace Dilemas. Your mental health is a protected characteristic so them being funny with you about it could well back fire on them! I hope your health has improved and that you've been seeing your doctor as needed. You aren't alone in this so don't let them make you feel like you are!
    Piscean1 and pepper5 like this.
  10. Hellsbelle21

    Hellsbelle21 New commenter

    Thank you for the messages of support. Not good news so far im afraid.

    Im back at school, one week away from half term and last week I had another meeting with the same two HOD's. I have been threading water all term due to new initiatives and policies put in place to inprove a poor Ofsted rating and despite working 12-14 hour days every other day (sometimes more) I have been told that I am 'disorganised', 'faffy' and that my marking is not inline with the college policy. The latter has some truth as I have struggled with a new home learning policy which has substantially increased my already heavy workload. Added to this my continuing battle with PTSD and depression and a breakdown in my marriage (which HOD does know about) I have now been put on an informal support plan. I had absolutely NO idea that this was even on the cards.

    I had one email and one 5 minute meeting with my HOD 2/3 weeks ago who basically told me that I am not up to date with my marking and that I had 1 week to improve. I did improve (by working from 7am to 8pm) in school most evenings that week and I never received any positive acknowledgement of this improvement. I then received another email last week that my KS5 marking was not up to date (bear in mind I was only asked to improve my KS3 and 4) and had literally had no time to attend to this by the time I received this email.

    I received an email last week from HOD to attend a meeting with the other HOD (I am 50/50 split between 2 subjects) and I naievely presumed that it was to do with curriculum updates but as soon as I sat down it was evidently clear this was not the case. I was bluntly told by one HOD that I was disorganised and 'faffy' but was not given any tangible evidence to this effect other than my marking which I acknowledge I have been struggling with. They then both went on to stress that this was an 'unoffifical' meeting but that it would still be logged in order to cover them (i.e. show that they did something to try to support me) and that they had drawn up an 'informal' support plan which again they stressed was only between the 3 of us and the AP. I was exhaused (this was 4pm Friday after a long and frankly awful week) and I didnt really take in what exactly they were telling me. I assumed by 'informal' that they meant literally between the 3 of us as colleagues. I didnt sign anything and told them I would look over the document during the weekend.

    I opened the document today and it certainly doenst look very informal. In fact it appears to be quite a formal compenancy based support plan. My areas of concern are 'Evidence that basic organisation skills are lacking' and 'Marking'. I am completely confused now as to what the hell is actually going on. Once again, this meeting has left me feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and led to a minor panic attack the following day (not at school).

    I guess what im asking is am I in trouble here due to my marking or is this style of leadership and 'support' bordering on bullying and scaremongering. No tangible support has been offered other than biweekly support meeting, examples of good practice (of what? it didnt actually state) and clarification of the school's policies and procedures.

    Sorry for yet another marathon essay. Im starting to feel like I cant do anything right in my work and that i am letting everyone down. Including myself.
  11. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    Honestly, it sounds like you are potentially being set up. Even if they have legitimate concerns it doesn't sound like they are handling them in a sensitive way. If you've been stressed to the point of having a panic attack about this then it sounds like you need see a GP urgently on Monday and talk through how work is making you feel. You also need to include your union as well so need to contact them urgently on Monday too.

    I hope things start to improve for you soon.
  12. lizziescat

    lizziescat Star commenter

    Your union needs to be involved in this. It is not clear what the status of your meetings and support are. Discuss this with your union at regional level.
    You also need to see your GP asap, as you appear to be unwell and sufferingfrom anxiety etc (understandably)
  13. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Hi @kellsbell .
    It sounds as if you're having a rough time again, with a crippling workload and colleagues who seem unhelpful and hostile. I send sympathy.
    You are obviously struggling with several aspects of your job.

    Now, being accused of faffing about seems quite harsh and unsympathetic. I might apply this to someone who is always at the photocopier at the last minute and making a mess of it, or someone frequently coming in 2 minutes before the lesson to get the learning resources (or sending a child 5 minutes after the lesson has started), or not quite knowing what the learning objectives for the sequence of lessons are, or being late on a regular basis.
    I have no idea whether any of these apply to you. We've all done these things on an occasional basis. When it happens on a regular basis, then others think "disorganised".
    When I was in the 8.30-3.30 everyday lark, it was essential to plan carefully, what I was teaching, what I'd need and when I was going to do it. I made sure I had an outline of the week on the Thursday before - partly because as a science teacher, I had to let the technicians know. It sounds to me as if you need a manageable routine that works.
    I sometimes found that marking stuff straight after a 5 lesson day was not productive, my brain needed a break and I often needed food. Sometime, taking the stuff home and doing it after tea was more productive than staying until all hours getting tireder and tireder (and less and less productive and accurate).
    Maybe they're trying to support you in using your time more usefully. Maybe they're out to stitch you up. I can't tell. Maybe you need to find a sympathetic colleague as a sounding board.
    If the panic attacks are continuing though, it's possible that working in this school is not being healthy for you. Either you need therapy or treatment so the flood of negative emotion can diverted elsewhere, or you need a different job. I got to the point of burn out - I was not as successful at organising myself as I would have liked to be. There is another world out there.

    Good luck.

Share This Page