Imagine if everything that you perceived to be normality suddenly changed overnight. Imagine if everything that you believed to be stable and secure was all of a sudden proven to be shaky and untrustworthy. Imagine your actual freedom has been taken away and you feel like you are a prisoner living at home in a virtual world. The fact is, that this is exactly what has happened over the last year and the effects on the younger generation have been far reaching and multi-faceted. The knock on effect has made it even more difficult to cope with, especially in the case of people who were already having mental health issues. The lockdowns have ignited and exacerbated an array of emotional reactions including, fear, anger, depression, anxiety and also many instances of domestic violence & abuse. We are most definitely living in unprecedented times when the need for support from the mental health and fostering sector are vital for survival.
Let’s start by briefly looking at young children between the age range of 4 to 11. Home schooling is the ‘new norm’ which has been proven to be a challenging journey for both the parent and child. For example, a parent has to work from home to maintain an income, but also make time to give time and attention to the child and help them to achieve the daily tasks set by the school teachers. But the vast majority of parents are not qualified school teachers and young children have short attention spans. In a lot of cases parents who are under pressure to hit targets set by their employers have low tolerance levels which has led to the parent snapping at the child causing upset and loss of focus and attention by both parties. Even though they are earning a wage many parents have ended up depressed and drained of energy because of the extracurricular, double workload, also leading to a knock-on effect on the child. Another factor that must also be taken into consideration is the child not having contact with other children or being able to play in a park, boredom leads to possible misbehaviour born out of frustration. Not seeing peoples full faces because of the masks could also have a psychological effect on the child’s perception of reality. These examples of daily discontent build up inside and have expanded the range of difficulties relating to maintaining a healthy state of mind for a young child, the parent and of course the older siblings.
Having looked at the basic daily household scenario in lockdown, we can now move onto what it’s like for teenagers and young adults up to the age of 25. This age group is another kettle of fish with a whole set of other variables that have to be taken into consideration. Not forgetting many are having to live in a household where they have younger siblings and parents to contend with, such as already referred to in the aforementioned paragraph. The pressure on young adolescents to be independent and self sufficient is colossal in this day and age, add the lockdown scenario to the equation and we now have a catalyst for a deluge of problems relating to maintaining a balanced mind state and a decent quality of lifestyle. Firstly they are being cooped up in the house for long periods of time, then overdosing on social media, poor nutritional intake, lack of exercise, online entrapment, peer pressure and a general lack of real life social interaction has led to emotional states of confusion, disassociation, insecurity and anxiety. The fact that there are no night clubs or gyms open has also amplified the state of frustration for this age group to a much higher level, that is most probably not being fully acknowledged by the powers that be.
Nowadays music is very accessible especially with streaming being the obvious new favourite way of listening by the consumer. Before the lockdowns kicked in, the live music events industry (in spite of the many ensuing obstacles), was booming. The UK music industry in general has given so many young people, an outlet, a release, a chance, a career, a purpose in life and a physical social network of people that have become family who all look forward to seeing and partying/performing with each other on most weekends. This whole reality has become a distant memory for some, for others it has become the fuel to keep the ball rolling by looking for new online avenues. But the fact still remains that nothing can compare to the real thing and even the socially distanced events still don’t cut it with all the restrictions that interrupt the nature of a ‘real’ party vibe. The effects on this young age demographic have been devastating and not necessarily always detectable.
All of these variables leave adolescents and young adults feeling like there is no escape, like they are trapped in a never ending time warp, with carrots being dangled to give hope of respite, but the time limits are always being extended before the deadline expires. These young people have had their enthusiasm crushed which has left them feeling very deflated with no prospect of a realistic end in sight. Music and sport are lifelines that keep many young people on the straight and narrow, away from temptation to get involved in criminal activities or led into situations where they are pressured under duress by for example, gangs and/or organised county lines syndicates, the list of potential negative scenarios is inexhaustible.
If freedom is something that was taken for granted in the past, this lockdown phase must have an effect on young people´s perception of what could now be seen as a privilege to go to a gym and workout or to go to a party or concert to enjoy some quality time. Support in the form of offering opportunities and encouragement to help people stay positively occupied will be a defining factor in overcoming the complications, plus the associated ensuing mental and physical health issues as we move forward over the coming years.
Author’s Name: Raymond Crawford