Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

Behavioral Health in the Education Sector

Although all sectors of American life have been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, education has arguably been hit the hardest. Most state governments issued stay-at-home orders and closed public schools in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, forcing a rapid transition to distance learning. This transition has likely amplified existing disparities in a variety of ways, as not all children have access to the technology needed for remote learning and special education services may be significantly disrupted when delivered online instead of in person.

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Behavioral Health in Education Before the Pandemic

The Standard completed the research for its Behavioral Health Impact Study just before the pandemic reached the United States, so the results provide a snapshot of how behavioral health issues were manifesting in the education industry at that time.[1]

  • Nearly half of U.S. educators (45%) reported suffering from mental health distress, including 6% who have a serious mental illness.
  • One in three (34%) said they felt burned out.
  • A third of educators described lowered productivity (37%) and/or missing work (29%) because of mental health issues.
  • One-third (35%) missed work because they felt burned out.
  • One in three (35%) said that half or more of their work time suffers when they are struggling with a mental health issue.

In comparison to workers in other industries, employees in education reported more mental health distress and were more burned out; as a result, they were struggling more with productivity and missing work at a higher rate than people in other industries.

Unfortunately, along with this, education workers reported feeling less supported by HR when it came to requesting leave or accommodations, and they were less comfortable seeking help from their employer for addiction issues. The flip side of those issues is stigma: Educators expressed more concern than workers in other industries about coworkers treating them differently if they disclosed they were struggling with a behavioral health issue, and almost half (48%) said they would worry about being fired if they disclosed a substance use issue.

The trends are significantly worse for younger educators, with Millennial employees reporting more than twice the rate of moderate mental distress than older (Generation X and Baby Boomer) employees (58% versus 28%). They were also much more likely to report feeling burned out than older workers (46% versus 28%).

[1]; all statistics on this page are from the Behavioral Health Impact Study (BHIS) by The Standard.

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