COVID-19 pandemic caused ‘mental crisis’ among Israeli youth

The highest rates of anxiety were found in the secular sector (21%). The lowest rates were among the ultra-Orthodox (7%).

Sad person in tunnel (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Sad person in tunnel (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Israeli children are experiencing a “mental crisis,” according to new research released to The Jerusalem Post.
The report, based on a study conducted by Prof. Michal Grinstein-Weiss of Washington University and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya together with Prof. Rami Benvenisti of Hebrew University, showed that one in five children – 21% and three times more than before the coronavirus crisis – are suffering from symptoms of anxiety.
“The data is very worrisome – very, very worrisome,” Grinstein-Weiss told the Post.
The study was conducted in Israel at the end of March 2021 and included surveys of around 1,000 parents of children in the education system. Parents were asked to describe their children’s emotional, behavioral and social status, among other things.
The highest rates of anxiety were found in the secular sector (23%). The lowest rates were among the ultra-Orthodox (7%). Grinstein-Weiss said that it is expected that anxiety levels would be lower among the ultra-Orthodox.
“They have faith, so in general they worry less,” she said.
Anxiety was highest among children who had two parents return to work outside the home during the pandemic when they were still required to engage in distance learning.
At this stage, the survey showed, parents estimate that nearly half of children (46%) need psychological help as a result of the crisis.
Emotional and social data revealed similar challenges. Some 60% said children were reported as feeling lonely. Less than half (44%) managed to maintain their relationships with their friends.
Only about half of all schoolchildren took their online studies seriously and more than half had difficulty managing online learning. The classes “put a heavy burden on them,” the report showed.
Parents said that they feel teachers and principals did their best, but that the school system simply did not provide a good enough solution.
While at home, students spent a long time at their screens. Parents reported that about half of all children spent so much time on their screens it could be considered an “addiction.”
Other children expressed frustration through physical violence (23%) and some suffered from eating disorders (24%).
Grinstein-Weiss cautioned that consideration would need to be given to any long-term effects of the year of distance learning, as it is likely that some students will continue suffering from learning gaps as well as emotional and behavioral challenges.
She emphasized the need for a national organization that would focus on children’s recovery from the crisis, including systematic efforts to support students and educational staff during the transition back to school.