CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Many teachers in the United States say they’re quitting after the pandemic, simply because they feel unappreciated, unsafe, and burned out.
New data reveals they are not alone; other frontline workers are following suit.
But researchers at the University of California, Berkeley say there are ways to keep these essential workers on the job.
Bill Mathis taught ninth-grade English for several years until quitting last fall.
“I think I had been debating quitting about a year before, but Covid really just put the nail in it for me,” said Mathis.
He switched from teaching students to working in Michigan’s newly-legalized cannabis industry.
He says he quit because he was worried that he’d get COVID-19 and transmit it to his parents or his girlfriend, who has lupus.
“Covid is not the beginning of anything. It is just the harshening of every way that these doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers have been treated,” said Mathis.
In 2018, one in five Americans surveyed said they were burnt out at their jobs. About half of public servants — including teachers, firefighters, police, government and social workers — said the same.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley say anxiety and burnout have gotten even worse since the pandemic began.
“Now, all our recent studies on health workers and other front line workers suggest that burnout is increasing, anxiety is increasing, and so we expect that the rates are going to kind of stay high for public servants for a while,” said Elizabeth Linos, a behavioral scientist at University of California, Berkeley.
She says new evidence suggests that if workers have a strong social support network, a good relationship with their supervisor that provides feedback, and a strong sense of belonging at work — then those things can mitigate the effects of burnout.
Sterling Heights, Michigan fire chief Kevin Edmond agrees. His team has been face to face with COVID-19 positive individuals in life or death emergencies.
“It’s OK if you need to seek help. It doesn’t mean that you’re a weak person. It just means that you’ve seen some rough events in your life and you need help in processing those events,” said Edmond.
Although Bill Mathis is already making more money working in shipping at a cannabis company than he was when teaching, his heart still remains with his students.
“That’s the only thing that would bring me back to teaching, is if the things happened that needed to happen. Class sizes were reduced, teachers were given more freedom, pay was increased. And I’m not saying I have to make $100,000 a year,” he said.
The hotline “For The Frontlines” has been set up as a 24-hour resource for other health care and essential workers. Text 741741 for free crisis counseling.
There is also a hotline for physicians as well, Physician Support Line or 1 (888) 409-0141.
The Associated Press contributed to this report