✏️ Asyia Iftikhar | @asyiaiftikhar
With uncertainty on the horizon, young people in school, between studies, at university, employed or recently unemployed have all been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. Naked Politics has collected the facts, spoken to experts and heard from young people about their experiences during quarantine.
Research carried out by the University of Sheffield and Ulster University explored how different age ranges, groups were affected by their mental health. In the sample of 2,000 young people aged 13-24, they found that almost 50% felt more anxious since lockdown began, with overall lower well-being affecting 19-24 year olds.
An interesting outcome of this, according to the research, is that those with more anxiety are found to comply with the rules whereas those with lower mood are more likely to break them. Young men, aged 19-24 are the most likely to breach lockdown to visit friends.
Despite breaking lockdown for these reasons a survey carried out by VitaMinds showed 1 in 5 were reluctant to contact a doctor for fear of wasting time or being asked into a practice.
Talking to young people about whether they felt they had access to mental health resources, Saffron , 24, said, ‘I prefer counselling in person, it just feels like a safe space and it helps to talk to someone you can see, I don’t think phone calls or video sessions would benefit me right now, especially if we don’t have a connection yet.’ Both Hanna, 20, studying at university and Bethany, 21, on a placement year, have spoken about how they have felt supported by their university and been able to access resources they need.
Jane Muston, Clinical Director of VitaMinds showed concern at the lack of young people reaching out for help. ‘NHS services are open for business and have become much more flexible and innovative in their delivery. There is very clear and strict guidance for Health Care Professionals to maintain social distancing.’
She reiterated the importance of reaching out for help, if you are constantly feeling low.
What are young people saying?
Talking to Bethany, she seemed to echo sentiments seen by a number of young people, especially university students, ‘It’s an incredibly difficult time. Young people, especially those at University, are used to constantly seeing friends and loved one, and having the structure of University life. Now, contact with people is plummeting, and any attempt at planning for a future after University seems futile’.
One aspect of this pandemic that has been unique throughout history is the element of technology and how that has affected people’s ability to connect, even whilst distancing. There have been lots of positives to this for young people’s mental health, since they are able to talk to their friends, and keep up to date with the outside world.
However, when talking to Jane Muston, she spoke about the negative side of being constantly digitally connected. Now more than ever there is the risk of spending too much time online. It is easy to find yourself overwhelmed with information, counting daily death tolls and hearing about the hardships people face at an almost constant pace. She stressed the importance of making sure you get information from verified sources, and have the right support group and safe space on the internet.
Saffron, 24, told us ‘it’s so easy to get obsessed with news coverage and negativity spread across social media. I’ve had to limit my time and try not to get too absorbed into certain topics’.
What can we do?
When talking about whether the mental health of young people is being taken seriously on a professional level Jane told us, ‘[there has been] recognition from local authority, employment and education agencies…very much on an individual provider basis, something more must be done to support and connect young people into services and for them to reach out.
Jane gave her top tips for coping with worsening mental health under lockdown. She told us that, whilst it is important to stay connected, taking a break from the internet and being in the moment is also vital. When you do go online, check where you are getting your information from, and if you read something that weighs on your mind, reach out to someone.
Most importantly, you don’t have to struggle on your own, don’t judge yourself. When it remains constant and impacts on your ability to live your life, it is really important to reach out for help.
Young minds text 85258 for immediate support via text chat with a crisis volunteer
The mix also offers online, call and text support
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