The REACH Study
Children's Mental Health Week
In July 2020, the REACH team welcomed their first group of virtual work experience students. As part of their work for the week, some of the students chose to write blog posts on the experiences of young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. To mark Children’s Mental Health Week, we want to highlight the challenges that young people in south London have been facing at this time, as told in their own words. The following post uses quotes from three students aged 15-17.
One young person touched on how rapidly they’ve had to adjust to a number of different changes. They also noted how poor access to the internet has become a particular challenge for some:
As you all know we are currently in a global pandemic of COVID-19. The pandemic has made many changes to our lives and we have all had to adjust to these different changes rapidly, but the group within society that I believe has seen the biggest impact is young people. The virus has affected our daily routines and our normal life, it has also impacted our mental health and wellbeing.
Schools closed on March 20th and students have been learning online with work being sent from their teachers. This has been a massive change for young people as we have been responsible for our own learning and have been trying to work through the curriculum independently. It has been challenging to those who haven’t had good access to internet and those who find independent study difficult to adjust to.
Another young person highlighted how challenging they had found adapting to remote learning and a change to their routine:
From personal experience, I have struggled with online school. A high volume of work was set which left me feeling overloaded with essays and assignments as well as learning new content by myself. I had to depend on my own understanding of the subjects to pull through and not slack behind. I found myself losing a daily routine for school. My sleeping pattern suffered, I had a poor diet and lost motivation to do my work. These feelings caused me to continuously avoid doing assignments which added to my feelings of stress.
An added stress came from the uncertainty around exams and assessments. The cancellation of exams caused a huge feeling of anxiety for Year 11 – 13 students in particular. Many have felt overwhelmed by the enforcement of new centre assessed grading system where previous mock exam grades and class work contribute to final GCSE, AS and A level grades. This is very nerve-wracking for some who may find that they receive lower grades than if they’d sat the exams and beneficial for others who might find that their final results are better under the new grading system.
Changes to social interaction was also mentioned, including the lack of in person social interactions and the increase in time spent online:
Young people have also had to adjust to not being able to see their friends and extended family, which has affected wellbeing and mental health. We have been deprived of the social interactions outside of our households for several months. Many young people have switched to online alternatives to interact with their friends and family, and to kill time. We’ve been doing this in a number of ways, for example, using social media, phone calls, video calls and video games. Some parents are unhappy with the amount of time their children are now spending online, but I am sure that the parents would rather their child be online than catching the virus! In these weird and uncertain times, young people are just using what is available to them to make sure they don’t miss out on time spent with friends. I personally believe that the modern online alternatives are incredibly important for young people at the moment.
However, there have been some positives. One young person described how the change in routine has also led to discovering new things that they enjoy:
Lockdown has also been a time where a lot of teenagers have discovered something new like baking or even just cooking more foods for their family. When going into the shops at the beginning of lockdown, the flour shelves in the bakery isle were empty and there were no chocolate chips! I’ve spent more time helping in the garden over lockdown. I think that is really important to be outside and be around nature as it really helps with mental well-being.
To find services and organisations that can help to support you and your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, go to our COVID-19 Resources for Young People page. To learn more about the REACH study, click here. For more information on Children's Mental Health Week, click here.