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Younger generation want support to cope with financial and mental health impacts of COVID-19

Research suggests that during COVID-19 young people have been feeling more anxious, depressed and uncertain about their future than older generations.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications on health and wellbeing. This is no different for young people. Much of the attention of the devastating impacts of COVID-19 has been on older, shielding residents. However, in many ways, the younger generation has dealt with especially challenging circumstances, unique to their age and stage in life. 

Since March, young people had to adapt to schooling or working from home. They were isolated from friends and family and stripped of sports, activities, and other enriching experiences typical to growing up. Many spent lockdown in a crowded home.

In order to evidence the profound impacts of Covid-19 on this age group, we surveyed 48 young people (under 24 years old) in Camden who represent the diversity of the borough.

 

The family-wide impacts of job loss and financial stress

Compared to the results shown in our October 2020 ‘Life in Lockdown’ report, which surveyed on average an older group of residents, this younger age group reported consistently higher levels of COVID-19 related concerns.

For example, 23% of responders from the previous report were worried about finances or job security due to the pandemic. Yet almost two-thirds of young people said they were worried about ‘my personal finances or my family’s personal finances’ and three in five were concerned about ‘my job security or my family member’s job security.’

“My dad lost his job and mum doesn’t work.”

The impact of personal job loss or the job loss of a parent or caregiver is causing financial stress for the whole family and is a major concern right now for young people.

 

COVID-19 is having widespread impacts on the health and wellbeing of young people

When compared to the previous report from October 2020, young people surveyed were significantly more concerned about maintaining their physical health, the health and wellbeing of loved ones and feeling lonely and isolated. Contrary to popular media messaging that young people feel immune to the disease or don’t care about it, our survey showed more than half of young people were fearful of catching the virus. This was similar to the level of concern regarding catching the virus shown in the previous report.

Additionally, half of the responders were feeling worried about the impact of the pandemic on their schooling, slightly under half were missing extracurricular activities and arguing more with family, and one-third were feeling bored.

Finally, when compared to the October 2020 report, the young people responding to this survey were twice as likely to report concerns about strains on caring responsibilities.

 

COVID-19 is having a substantial impact on young people’s mental health

Seven in ten young people said that COVID-19 is impacting their mental health or emotional wellbeing.

Young people reported a variety of impacts on mental health. The most common reported issues were increased stress, anxiety, depression, and fear.

“I am feeling more depressed. The winter months aren’t helping.”

“Triggered mental health issues again.”

Others mentioned a loss of motivation, either in work or school.

“Feeling extremely depressed. Worried about future stability a lot and loss of motivation to work and study.”

There is also evidence that the pandemic and lockdown measures have increased this generations’ social anxiety.

“I find myself more stressed and heightened anxiety when it comes to meeting people again. With uncertainty too.”

“Specifically during the lockdown, it has made me anxious and overthinks. I started to feel easily irritated and felt a lack of desire to communicate with others.”

 

Young people are worried about their future

With their entire lives ahead of them, the younger generation are significantly more worried about the impact the pandemic is having on life events and their future.

One said:

“[I am] mainly concerned about graduation and career.”

While some felt happy about lockdown ending and things returning to ‘normal’, the majority were feeling worried, uncertain, fearful, or stressed about the future.

“The impact of COVID will be detrimental to young people like me.”

“[I feel] worried and stressed about the future and what may be the long-term effects on my generation.”

 

How young people have coped

One in three surveyed young people in Camden said they were struggling to find things to help them cope during this time.

Among those who do have the support they rely on, the most popular methods were: going to the park, being outside more, exercising more, learning something new, practising their faith, staying in touch with family and friends remotely, playing video or computer games, and focusing on school.

 

Young people need more support

The majority of young people, including those who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, are not receiving any mental health support.

One young person said they do not talk to others about their mental health because they fear it will be ‘burdensome’:

“I am stuck with my thoughts, worries and regrets during the lockdown. Everyone is going through individual stresses and that makes venting communication feel burdensome.”

This signifies the possibility that young people need mental health support yet are not accessing it. When asked what support they need right now, young people said:

“Something to get me out of bed.”

“Mental health support.”

“Therapy” “Guidance”

“Just help to get things back to normal.”

“For my dad to get a job.”

The impacts of COVID-19 on young people will linger beyond the introduction of a vaccine and into the future. Going forward, both clinical and non-clinical mental health support must be well supported within Camden so that young people can access the help they need.

Healthwatch Camden will continue to raise these issues with health & care services and policy makers. We also will be sharing these findings with the Young Camden Foundation to inform their future grant funding.

 

Local mental health resources for young people

Of those accessing mental health support, most were relying on their peers, local community organisations, and Kooth (a free and anonymous online wellbeing and mental health support website for 11-18 year olds).

The majority of young people found the survey through their connection with Kings Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCBNA), an organisation that “believes in investing in young people by providing positive activities for them and offering new experiences.”

KCBNA and other local programs have provided invaluable support to young people in Camden throughout the pandemic. Other local resources for mental health support for young people include Fitzrovia Youth in Action, The Hive, Brandon Centre, the Camden Child and Young Person Mental Health Service, Samuel Lithgow Youth Centre, and many others.

 

If you need any support around the issues raised in this blog please contact the services listed above or contact Healthwatch Camden.