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Lockdown has had a detrimental impact on young people’s mental health

New research shows how stay-at-home orders have exacerbated stress, anxiety, and depression among those aged 25 and under

Many parts of the world are only just beginning to emerge from strict lockdowns, which saw people confined to their homes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We already know that young people – particularly women and girls – are among the worst hit by the crisis, especially when it comes to job cuts. Now, new research shows that young people are also at higher risk of suffering from quarantine-related mental health problems.

According to a study by University College London (UCL), Imperial College, and the University of Sussex, almost half of 16 to 24-year-olds without previous mental health issues reported high levels of depressive symptoms during lockdown, with one in three experiencing moderate to severe levels of anxiety. 28 per cent of these young people also said the quality of their relationships had worsened during the pandemic.

New research by mental health charity YoungMinds also found that lockdown has exacerbated mental health problems for young people, with 80 per cent of teens and young adults asserting that the COVID-19 crisis has made their mental wellbeing worse. 87 per cent of those aged 13 to 25 said they felt lonely or isolated, despite still being in touch with friends, though 11 per cent said their mental health had improved because they could avoid bullying or pressure from school.

“Many young people receiving mental health care have reported disruption to their services,” Lee Hudson, associate professor at UCL, told The Guardian. “This can have serious long-term impacts. This pandemic has been a double whammy for young people as they are also at greater risk of unemployment.”

He added: “Young people are not a group directly at high risk from COVID, but they are certainly at high risk from the lockdown. They’ve given up a lot on behalf of the whole country. Now we owe it to them to do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the lockdown on their mental health.”

Tom Maddens, campaigns director at YoungMinds, told the newspaper: “In the last few months, young people have struggled to cope with social isolation, anxiety, a loss of structure, and fears about their future. Many of those with mental health problems have also lost their coping mechanisms – including seeing friends or taking part in routine activities – and experienced disruption to their support.”

“The government must ensure there is significant new funding to prevent the pandemic from having lasting consequences on mental health,” he continued. “The wellbeing of children and young people must be at the heart of all policy-making, so that decisions across government have a positive impact.”

In a video released during Mental Health Awareness Week, and as part of Dazed’s #AloneTogether campaign, 10 young people opened up about their mental health in lockdown. “Mental health is just as important as physical health,” Hannah Hyncil told Dazed, “and I think in a society where physical image is glorified so much, it’s easy to forget that.”

“Everyone has their own internal battle that you may know nothing about,” added Tito Molokwu. “If you actually just stop and think about how fortunate we are, how blessed we are to just be alive. I feel as though you become grateful, and in gratitude, there’s kindness.”

Godwin concluded: “I’m trying to be kind to myself by learning to control the things that are in my grasp. You’re important and your mental health is important, and you’re not suffering alone.”