I-Team: Classrooms of Fear: PTSD for teachers

Published: May. 19, 2014 at 10:03 PM CDT|Updated: May. 20, 2014 at 2:00 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Many would associate post-traumatic stress disorder with soldiers returning from a horrific war, but now, some school teachers say they're nearly driven to the edge by their students and are also being diagnosed with PTSD.

Dr. Darlyne Nemeth, a 30 plus year psychologist said she started treating teachers for post-traumatic stress disorder about 10 years ago, but in the past few years, she said there's been an increase in how many of her patients are educators.

"I have treated many teachers with PTSD, and I am currently following a few of them," said Dr. Nemeth.

PTSD is a condition of persistent mental or emotional stress caused by an injury or severe psychological shock. The symptoms include anxiety, depression, avoidant behaviors and in one teacher's case, panic attacks.

"Mentally, it's a struggle everyday," said an EBR teacher who said she started getting treatment for PTSD 10 years ago.

The veteran public school teacher said there's a lack of support and an increasing amount of violence in her classroom.

"I do not think that the student population in general understands that teachers are just people and have human feelings," said the teacher. "Several times, I've had desks thrown at me."

Now on medication and going through treatment for PTSD, the teacher refuses to call it quits saying she believes in her school system and Baton Rouge and wants to make a difference in children's lives, but another teacher the I-Team sat down with said enough is enough. He said he's getting out before he has to seek treatment himself.

"I've been threatened five different times this year that someone was going to kill me," said another teacher. "I don't feel comfortable. I can't sleep at night. I'm always looking over my shoulder. My stress level is so high that I start getting rashes on my body."

Dr. Nemeth said its episodes like these that are starting to push out educators saying when it comes to the older, some of the most experienced teachers, they cannot take the stress any longer and are quitting, whereas some of those coming out of college hoping to live out the dream of teaching are quickly finding they can not tolerate the emotional and sometimes physical trauma.

"If you've had rocks thrown at you, if you've had chairs thrown at you, if you've had parts of your body broken, you don't want to give that person another chance," said Dr. Nemeth.

Dr. Nemeth said when soldiers go overseas, they're trained and expect to be placed in traumatic situations, but teachers never get that level of training. She added that a soldier with PTSD often cannot return to duty after traumatic events and compares that to the situation some teachers find themselves in.

"They can't go back to the front. They are permanently disabled and not allowed to go back and serve anymore but look at our teachers. They have to go back over and over and over again," said Dr. Nemeth.

There is treatment for PTSD. It includes cognitive behavior therapy, which is the same treatment given to soldiers returning home from war. Plus, there are several medications depending on the extent and nature of the trauma.

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