Quebec’s Institut national de la santé publique (INSPQ) has launched an online survey to determine what effects the pandemic may have had on the mental health of those working in the province’s public education system.
The study is aimed at “producing evidence taking into account the impact of the pandemic and formulating recommendations to reduce the harmful effects (psychosocial and workplace) on employees” because “little in the way of rigorous data exists on the subject in Quebec,” according to the INSPQ’s announcement.
“We know there is a shortage of personnel in that milieu,” said project supervisor Mariève Pelletier. “We hear about the workload, we hear how it is a job that is becoming more and more difficult for different reasons. And with COVID, it’s a milieu that was particularly affected by a lot of the measures that had to be put in place and which were difficult to put in place.”
Pelletier said that two years after the pandemic began, researchers felt the time had come “to really better understand what the principal risk factors are and how these workers are doing.”
Researchers are focusing on the level of psychological distress of school personnel. They also want to see whether certain regions of Quebec did better than others in coping and, if so, what lessons can be drawn.
“There has been a new reality facing staff since the start of the school year,” said Pelletier, who thinks a portrait drawn two years after the start of the health crisis will be faithful to reality. “The virus is here to stay and there will be new waves in the years to come.”
The study will seek answers to questions specifically on the topic of COVID to allow researchers to distinguish issues specific to the pandemic from those such as teacher-student ratios or having to work in a disadvantaged milieu.
Pelletier says the study should provide a road map for decision makers to take “preventive action.” If the pandemic left a mark on the psychological health of personnel “this (study) is the portrait we will have to work with.”
It is hoped that anglophone and francophone personnel — teachers, professionals and support staff — from all public elementary and secondary schools in the province will join the survey.
The poll does not cover personnel working for school boards or school service centres or in training or adult education centres.
Pelletier and her colleagues are hoping for the participation of 20,000 public school employees.
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