As the UK begins to emerge out of the depths of the Covid-19, we can begin to study the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people in the UK.
The National Institute for Health Research believes that young people rely on close friendships more than adults do. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when the first lockdown hit in March 2020, young people feeling lonely were more prone to experiencing symptoms of negative mental health. When schools closed, young people suddenly found themselves balancing the stress of the pandemic with continued schoolwork, home, and financial stress, and they lost a social outlet in which to cope with these problems. For young people who accessed mental health support either through their schools or in face-to-face sessions, lockdown acted as a barrier between them and the care that they needed.
57% of schools found that closing had a negative impact on the mental health of young people. 58% of young people felt that their futures would be worse as a result of the pandemic. A Young Minds study found that the pandemic caused young people to feel ‘deeply anxious’, with some individuals starting to self-harm again and others experiencing panic attacks. It is clear that the weight of the pandemic, which has affected nearly every part of the lives of young people, from missing out on social events and important coming-of-age milestones to the loss of loved ones and financial stress, has significantly worsened the UK’s pre-existing mental health crisis. These factors also demonstrate just how vital it is that young people are offered mental health support that can be accessed just as much online as in person.
However, as restrictions on socialising eased in mid-2021, 62% of young people felt that they were coping well with the stress of the pandemic, as opposed to 50% in February 2021. This is a hopeful sign that young people are overcoming fewer mental health barriers in relation to Covid-19 but does not mean that the push for better mental health resources should be forgotten about.
As we move into a future where vaccines and treatment for Covid-19 are more readily available, it is vital that we learn from the past and consider new ways to offer more innovative mental health help. Safe New Futures have adapted to the ever-changing restrictions brought on by the pandemic by moving their workshops online. This means that young people can access mental health support from anywhere, such as from school or from home.