Youth feel ‘unfairly scapegoated’ for Covid spikes

How’s your Head pandemic survey from Department of Children and Spunout.ie

Photograph: Getty

Photograph: Getty

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Young people feel “undervalued”, “unfairly scapegoated” and feel the sacrifices they have made during the pandemic are not taken seriously, a report published on Monday warns.

They report that they have had neither “timely” nor “clear” communication about “important matters” in their lives, such as the Leaving Certificate and college accommodation, while one in 10 could not name a single positive about their pandemic experience.

Many, however, found positives, including more time with family and pets, more rest and self-care, and were optimistic the world might be changed for the better by the pandemic.

The report, How’s Your Head: Young Voices During Covid-19 draws on detailed questionnaires from 2,173 people aged between 15 and 24. It is published by the Department of Children in conjunction with youth mental health charity, Spunout.ie. A youth advisory group informed the process and gave feedback.

In all 751 (35 per cent) said not being able to see friends, including boyfriends and girlfriends, was the “hardest thing” about the crisis. Illustrating the “immense importance of friendships” to young people, a 16-year-old girl said: “Not being able to do simple things such as seeing friends, going to the movies, going for food etc was really weird and made me more unhappy than I can explain.”

Mental health

A significant 424 respondents (20 per cent) said lockdown impacted their mental health with many mentioning overthinking, worry, anxiety, depression and a sense of hopelessness. “The rate [of mental distress] for LGBTI+ people was also far higher than that for heterosexuals,” says the report.

A total of 384 (18 per cent) said missing school or college was difficult both educationally and socially. “Online learning was deemed a poor substitute, especially for those with hardware and internet access issues.”

A sense of confinement or being trapped, as well as isolation and loneliness, was cited by 16 per cent.

One young woman said her father had “started to lash out and hit [her] again” and she could not “escape” as she usually would by going to college.

Others worried about money as summer jobs fell through, as well as missing sports.

Among the main positives were more time for exercise and eating healthily, cited by 534 (25 per cent); self-care including more rest and more time for meditation/mindfulness mentioned by 368 (17 per cent), and, more time with family and pets for 321 (15 per cent).

“It is important to note, however, that almost one in 10 survey respondents could not name a single thing that they wished to carry forward from the Covid-19 period. . . .There was a notable yearning among some respondents for pre-pandemic life.”

In its feedback, the youth advisory group said young people had been “unfairly scapegoated” for spikes in Covid cases and “blame and finger-pointing . . . does not recognise the huge sacrifices that young people have had to make.

“The group also felt that – during a time of great uncertainty – the lack of clear and timely communication about important youth matters, such as the Leaving Certificate or college accommodation, had the result of making young people feel undervalued.”

Spunout.ie can be reached by text at 50808, 24 hours a day, or email hello@spunout.ie

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