Assessing Indicators of Mental Health Distress Among New Jersey High School Teachers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Maryanne L. Campbell, BS Juhi Aggarwal, BA, MPH Derek G. Shendell, D.Env, MPH


Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey K-12 schools closed, and teachers were required to conduct classroom lessons and school-sponsored activities online. Since spring 2020, teachers and students have experienced the physical, mental, and emotional stress COVID-19 has had in the United States.

Methods: To better understand potential mental health effects COVID-19 has had on New Jersey teachers, the New Jersey Safe Schools Program implemented the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6+) self-assessment survey as a workplace violence related activity during one of the four required trainings New Jersey Safe Schools offers for New Jersey career-technical education work-based learning supervisor certification (N=313). The K6+ is intended to measure distress over four weeks prior to administration. The K6+ was conducted using Mentimeter and included Likert scales, multiple choice, and two-character open response questions.

Results: Between January 2022-June 2023, of 336 teachers, 313 completed the K6+. Overall, 239 teachers (76%) and 235 teachers (75%) expressed feeling "nervous" and "restless or fidgety," respectively, during the past 30 days from when the survey was administered. Of 313 teachers, 38 teachers (12%) received a total score between 13-24, suggesting or indicating potential mental distress, in response to the first item of the K6+.

Conclusion: This preliminary study presents insights concerning potential mental health effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on New Jersey teachers. These data recognize the feelings expressed by New Jersey teachers working during the pandemic and can provide guidance to schools to better address identified needs, including employee wellness and positive social and emotional school environments.

Keywords: Employee Wellness, Mental Distress, Mental Health, Schools, Social and Emotional Climate, Teacher Wellness

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CAMPBELL, Maryanne L.; AGGARWAL, Juhi; SHENDELL, Derek G.. Assessing Indicators of Mental Health Distress Among New Jersey High School Teachers During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1, jan. 2024. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 03 mar. 2024. doi:
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