“School holidays feel no different to lockdown”
Young people worried about loneliness this summer, finds mental health charity, Mind
The start of the summer holiday could feel like another lockdown for many young people with mental health problems, says leading mental health charity, Mind. As schools break up for the summer holidays, there are increasing concerns over loneliness in young people, particularly those with mental health problems.
Mind’s latest report into the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people with mental health problems across England and Wales has recently revealed that, among young people with mental health problems:
- Nine in ten (88 per cent) told us loneliness made their mental health worse
- Almost one in two (48 per cent) have not felt close to people recently
- Two thirds (65%) of adults and more than two thirds (68%) of young people with mental health problems say their mental health has got worse since the first national lockdown. Nearly half (46%) of those adults and over half (51%) of those young people said that their mental health has got much worse since the beginning of the first national lockdown in March 2020
Louise Clarkson, Strategic Lead for Young People at Mind, said:
“Many of us often associate loneliness with older people, but we’ve also seen how it’s hit young people’s mental health hard too. Our report revealed that young people, who have struggled with their mental health through the pandemic, are more likely to be using coping strategies, like self-harm, than adults. Many young people have also told us how much they dread the summer holidays as they miss the social interaction with teachers and friends.
“At Mind, we’re determined to get young people the support they need, and most recently, we’ve called on the UK Government to invest in initiatives – such as #fundthehubs – which would provide young people somewhere to go when they first start to struggle with their mental health. We also urge anyone who is struggling with their mental health to seek support from their GP or speak to loved ones.”
Elsa is 19 and lives in Redbridge, East London. She began to experience depression and anxiety from around the age of 14, but didn’t feel supported at school. She said:
“The lack of resources available to my school meant the support wasn’t there. This was a huge factor in my mental health continuing to deteriorate until it became so bad and I needed help so desperately that we went through private counselling. I felt constantly misunderstood and didn’t get the support I needed. I am now really passionate about seeing a change in the way young people’s mental health is approached in schools.
“All staff need more resources and training to be better equipped to support students and create safe environments for everyone. I think this would make a huge difference to preventing mental health problems occurring and deteriorating. No young person should be left to reach a crisis point before people start listening or making the effort to understand. Better support within the education system would make a huge difference by catching problems earlier and giving the space for young people to feel listened to and empowered, something I rarely felt at school. Better support at school would have changed my whole mental health story as a teenager.”
Lily is 22, and lives in Southend, Essex. She studied at the University of Cambridge and has recently qualified as a teacher. She said:
“I think mental health support within schools is so important, especially given the impact the pandemic has had on young people. Pupils have faced both disruption to schooling, and the mental health effects of lockdowns and reduced social interaction, or even damaged relationships. I’m saddened but not shocked that Mind’s research found so many schoolchildren are worried about feeling lonely over the summer holidays. Our summer holidays, which would previously have been a period spent seeing friends and relaxing after the stresses and demands of term-time are over, could actually be a source of anxiety for many. It’s likely many teachers will be feeling that way too. Making sure well-funded services are available to young people is vital, and this should happen all year round, even – or especially – when schools are closed.”
Around 44 per cent of young people with mental health problems said they rarely or don’t ever feel optimistic, about the future, with one young person in the report saying “I really badly miss school. I hate the school holidays because they feel no different than lockdown to me. During the school holidays, I cry nearly every day and doing things like brushing my hair feels difficult. I just feel so lonely and crave any social interaction possible with my teachers and my friends.”
The charity is also concerned about how young people who struggle with their mental health were more likely to be using coping strategies, like self-harm, over or under-eating. Mind’s report also found that young people were coping by sleeping too much or too little (77 per cent of young people compared to 61 per of adults) and spending too much time on social media (73 per cent of young people compared to 49 per cent of adults).
Mind has produced information and support for young people to help them cope with mental health problems during the summer holidays and as restrictions ease. Here are some of their top tips:
- Keep talking and connecting with people – speak to loved ones or health professionals about how you are feeling. The more you open up, the more you realise you are not alone.
- Do things at your own pace – it’s OK to say ‘no’ to socialising if you need to and prioritise your own health and mental wellbeing.
- Try not to compare yourself to others – do what makes you happy. Happiness looks and feels different to everyone, so don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
- Limit your exposure to news and negative discussions – put your phone down and go outside – it’s a cliché but it works wonders.
- Write things down – journal and write down any positive thoughts.