Researchers from Tel Aviv University have found that Covid-19 is having detrimental effects to our mental health. The lockdowns and school closures caused by the Corona Virus have been especially hard on children as their parents are stressed out and educators who may suffer from burn out.
High levels of stress have been connected to heart disease and sleep disorders as well as a negative impact on the body’s immune system. It is not easy to detect the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress as most people try to deny these negative feelings and put on a happy face.
As if teaching children is not already a stressful enough profession, a study from TAU researchers led by Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari, Head of the Department of Health Promotion at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, examined the psychological resilience of teachers before and during the coronavirus pandemic.
The study took place from November 2019 to May 2020, with participants teaching first in the classroom and then, starting with Israel’s first lockdown in March 2020, exclusively online. In a questionnaire handed out before the beginning of the first study, teachers reported high levels of burnout as a result of large classes, schedule overload and lack of satisfactory resources.
Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari said, “The pandemic posed new challenges that naturally generated feelings of stress and anxiety among teachers. In addition to the quick transition to online teaching, teachers had to cope with uncertainty and constantly changing regulations, as well as personal fear of contracting the virus.”
The good news here is that educators who receive psychological counselling to help get through the Covid-10 crisis are less likely to burn out. So governments may need to ensure the availability of such services to teachers to keep many from simply quitting the profession.
Tel Aviv University researchers have also found that young children are suffering from a lack of loving expressions from their parents during the Corona Virus shutdowns. This is because when parents are home all day, every day, with the family they are under exceptional amounts of stress and forget to simply tell their kids that they love them.
The study, led by Professor Dorit Aram, Head of the Early Childhood Research Laboratory at TAU’s Constantiner School of Education found that during the pandemic parents spent more time with their children compared to regular times. Possibly, they had less of a need to show their love verbally and physically, because they paid more attention to their children on a daily basis. In addition, the researchers believe that the stress experienced by the parents, the crowded homes and the many hours spent together may have caused parents to “forget” the need to express love for their children, at a time when the children were in great need of loving behavior from their parents.
“This finding is somewhat surprising and even disappointing,” says Professor Aram. “At times of crisis and stress, young children need their parents more than ever. They need a hug and words of affection, and yet parents did not express their love as often, and parental leadership, discipline and rule-setting were weakened. I hope that parents will learn from our study…and strive to exhibit more beneficial parenting practices under stressful conditions.”
And as if life in Israel is not already stressful enough, yet another Tel Aviv University study has found that COVID-19 has caused “severe damage” to the Israeli public. The study also found higher levels of stress in respondents after the second lockdown began in the fall over when the first one ended last May.
Perhaps this is because the second shutdown in Israel ruined the Jewish holiday season of Rosh Hashanah. It also came as a shock to Israelis who thought that the worst was over.
The most important takeaway from the studies is that the symptoms of stress and anxiety are not always obvious. People who suffer from it do not necessarily understand why they feel the way that they do or what is happening to them. So in the Covid-19 era we need to be more careful to observe others as well as ourselves for any signs of anxiety, depression or stress.