All teachers can now receive free psychological tests and counseling this month in response to recent teacher suicides. Starting this year, the government plans to regularize teachers’ psychological tests every two years.
On Friday, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced the 'Plan to Support the Recovery of Teachers' Mental Health' at Government Complex Seoul. The decision was prompted by concerns that teachers nationwide are collectively experiencing trauma and depression following the suicide of a teacher at Seoi Elementary School in July.
Psychological testing, counseling, and treatment will be available to all teachers who wish to access these services from this month until February next year. Psychological tests can be taken at any of the 26 Teacher Healing Support Centers operated by the Metropolitan & Provincial Offices of Education, or at the 261 Mental Health Welfare Centers established by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in provinces, cities, and districts. Online tests are also an option.
Psychological testing is prioritized for teachers in crisis who are psychologically distressed by being reported for child abuse. Approximately 110,000 kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers teaching lower grades, and special education teachers are eligible for priority psychological counseling. Teachers needing counseling after the test can access counseling programs at the Teacher Healing Support Center. Those requiring medical treatment will need to cover the expenses themselves at hospitals affiliated with the Ministry of Education or at mental health clinics near their residences, and they will be reimbursed after providing the necessary documents. A budget of 10 billion won will be allocated to fund this project.
The number of teachers seeking treatment for depression at hospitals and clinics has nearly doubled in four years. According to data obtained from the National Health Insurance Service by Rep. Shin Hyun-young, a member of the Health & Welfare Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, the cases of teachers and staff at elementary, middle, and high schools, kindergartens, and daycare centers being treated for depression increased 1.8 times, rising from 88,127 cases in 2018 to 158,066 cases last year.