How is health more important than time

"Education is important, but mental health is more important"

Schools have to Pressure on teenagersReduceto counteract the growing psychological stress during the corona crisis, demands Dominique de Quervain. The stress researcher and neuroscientist about stress in the pandemic and how parents can accompany their children through the crisis.

Interview: Irena Ristic
Image: Pexels & zVg

Mr de Quervain, young people are currently particularly affected by depressive moods, as your study shows. Why is the crisis affecting children and young people so psychologically?

In adolescence, many changes happen on a physical, personal, and social level. It is a vulnerable time and now the pandemic is coming together with several stress factors. The restrictions in the social area are stressful for many young people, the stress level has risen in many families and the pressure in school has increased.

You advocate that schools take the pressure off. Why?

From the time before the pandemic, we know that school pressure is the factor that places the greatest burden on children and young people. Now schools are increasingly struggling with class or school closings and many quarantine cases. If the schools do everything they can to catch up on the missed school material, there will be even more pressure. A discharge must therefore be brought about. The curriculum should be adapted to the circumstances. As a doctor, all I can say is: education is very important, but mental health is even more important.

Are young people less resilient today because they have not had to go through any real crises so far (and fortunately), at least not in Central and Northern Europe? In other words: are older people more resistant to crises?

Our data show that the 65 plus generation is actually the least mentally affected group. You are financially secure, there is no great pressure. The daily routine of an over-65s is also different than that of a 17-year-old who misses the exit, for example. And of course: Older people have more life experience, which can help to classify crises differently. Nevertheless, we must not forget that there are also older people who are psychologically severely affected by the pandemic.

But is it really that bad for all young people?

Our data shows that psychological distress has increased significantly over the course of the pandemic. But a look deeper into the study figures also shows that not everyone is equally affected by the pandemic. When we say that young people suffer most from the pandemic, we are talking about a statistical mean and we are comparing it with the mean values ​​of the other age groups. Analyzed in more detail, the following picture emerges: In the group of 14-24 year olds, the proportion with pronounced depressive symptoms is 29 percent. This number has doubled since the lockdown in April. Another 24 percent of respondents have moderate symptoms and around half said they experienced mild to no symptoms.

You wrote the sentence: How stress is defined is subjective. What do you mean by that?

An external event can be experienced very differently by two people. The perception of stress and the ability to deal with stress well depend on the one hand on the genes, on the other hand on the environment and thus on what one has experienced and observed. When important caregivers such as parents, gods or friends deal with stress more easily or confidently, this can also be transferred to the child's behavior.