Over half of young people say they are feeling anxious, stressed or depressed due to the coronavirus pandemic, new research indicates.
However, most are optimistic society will change for the better, and are staying in regular contact with their friends by phone or online, according to a survey of almost 800 people aged 16 to 19.
The online poll, carried out by Amárach Research on behalf of Young Social Innovators (YSI) earlier this month, also indicates that most young people are closely practising social distancing measures.
The vast majority (94 per cent) of young people have stopped going out to meet with friends. Most are keeping at least 2m apart from people when in public, and practising strict handwashing and proper coughing hygiene.
There is a strong interest among young people in helping out in their community, with just over half those surveyed having a desire to help or are already helping.
Sarah Rooney, associate director of Amárach Research, said young people who are optimistic that society will change for the better hope that wider society will re-evaluate life, and appreciate that which may have previously been taken for granted.
“They are also aware of communities coming together and hope that this will continue, as well as the positive environmental impact of the economic shutdown.”
However, among those (32 per cent) who think society will be impacted for the worse, 40 per cent worry about the threat of recession.
Young Social Innovators chief executive Rachel Collier said it was important to understand how young people were coping in such uncertainty.
“We are encouraged by the level of awareness among young people, their interest in staying informed, their knowledge of Government guidelines, and their high levels of commitment to following these, all of which suggests they are playing their part in the national effort, and know what is expected of them to do so,” said Mr Rooney .
“While we are buoyed that many young people are remaining positive amidst the emergency, we must acknowledge the many others who may not be managing as well.”
She asked that parents and relations check up on young people in their lives by phone or email, and offer a listening ear to any worries or frustrations they may have.
Ms Collier said the strong interest among young people in helping their communities reflected other findings which indicate that “Generation Z” is keen to make a positive difference in the world.
“Such contribution and participation should be encouraged and enabled as we collectively deal with and begin to emerge from this crisis to rebuild our country,” she said. “Any discussions of the kind of world we wish to live in after this crisis must include young people’s perspectives.
“We must also listen to young people’s anxieties concerning a potential economic downturn, appreciating that it will likely be the second recession they have lived through, and be cognisant of the strain this may put on them and their families, and on their mental health in particular.”
In response to the findings, Young Social Innovators is launching an "open call to teenagers" to submit ideas on how to tackle the problems in our communities as a result of the pandemic.
Those with the ideas with the most potential for impact will be given the opportunity to pitch to a panel of leaders from across business, non-governmental organisations and government.
Ms Collier said: “No idea is too big or too small, and I would encourage all young people to think about how they can explore, create, innovate and make a difference, and enter the YSI open call.”