Monday 5 July 2021

Teenagers on the edge of a mental health precipice?

Anxiety. It is a terrible thing. I have been giving a lot of thought to how the fallout of lockdown will affect the children who are at school and going through all of this. Months out of school, friendship circles disrupted. Exams cancelled. End of year parties binned. Some will have seen financial hardship at home. Some will have lost family members and friends. Being isolated from friends as a teenager is a strange and unusual punishment. 

What is even worse though, is that the British have a strong aversion to admitting it is an issue, they don't talk about their problems and their friends don't want to hear them.  When people do seemingly irrational things, there is always an underlying reason. I'm not sure what the fallout will be from all of this. I think that we will see a surge of covid related PTSD cases as we go back to school. I wonder what would have happened if covid and lockdown had happened when I was 13 and at my lowest. If I'd had a year out of school, stuck at home? I think I'd have been terrified to go back. I still have nightmares that I'm back at school, having to resit exams or not knowing where my maths lessons are. God only knows what todays teenagers have nightmares about. 

The NHS is at it's most stretched. There are huge backlogs. Many of the staff are suffering burnout. The world in 2021 is not the world all of us grown ups were prepared for. Even the most mundane of things, such as 'seeing a doctor' has a new meaning. Will we ever routinely 'see a doctor' again? Yesterday I saw a bunch of friends that I'd not seen since November 2019, when we had a reunion get together. Some looked exactly the same. Some looked 20 years older. Some didn't come because they were too scared. These are people with life experience, for young people unprepared for normal life, let alone this sort of life, what on earth must it be like. It is a joyless drudge, that none of us can see an end to. When I was a teenager, time seemed to take forever to pass. The time I was at Finchley Catholic and Orange Hill Schools seemed like an eternity. Can you imagine how long it must seem like cooped up in your bedroom with little (non electronic) stimulation.

The Prime Minister will talk about 'learning to live with covid'. I worry that teenagers will need to learn how to live, full stop. Of course, some will thrive, but those who are of a nervous disposition, or who have had family trauma or financial crisis? We have a new health secretary who is more interested in the economy than the nations health. I believe we are sailing towards a mental health precipice. I do not see any evidence that HM govt has given this a moments thought. One reason the UK took such a hit from Covid is because we were unprepared and we are going into the post covid era in exactly the same way. We need a national strategy to address this crisis. There is no evidence that this is even recognised, let alone being developed. 

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