We caught up with Joel Harris, Kintsugi Hope Youth Wellbeing groups coordinator, to hear his thoughts about the really tough winter ahead for young people. We resolutely agree with his call to action, here’s what he had to say.
Winter is well and truly upon us and with lockdown 2.0 at an end, we are now facing changeable tier restrictions.
Back again to the familiar view of four walls, maybe school, or a workplace. A routine that feels strangely familiar, but somehow not comfortable, even if it is the second time around.
The rain, fog and dark nights reflect how many are feeling in these continued restrictions. Garden gatherings or park walks are not the same this time around, instead of sun we have rain, instead of a clear sky we have fog.
Hope seems a bit harder to search for this time, it doesn’t appear so obviously. We know what to expect, yet the coping mechanisms we had the first time around are diminished and definitely don’t seem as appealing. It’s not as pleasant when you can’t hear the person you’re speaking to on a walk over the noise of the wind. It feels like nature isn’t even on our side this time round!
Lockdown has changed for young people as well; the school or college routine is back but again coping mechanisms have been taken away. With schools staying open and the early starts back again, they can’t stay up late to play on the x-box or call friends as they need to sleep before school. The mandatory wearing of masks at school are a physical reminder that things are not normal. The fun has been taken out of youth groups, no sports activities, or late-night phone calls, all the things that allowed them to cope aren’t attainable in this new routine.
A routine that isn’t teaching children the boundaries of work being done in the work place and rest being done when you come home. This is a mixture of wake up, go to school, come home, carry on doing work like you're in school and then sleep. This isn’t promoting a healthy work balance. As a result, a nationwide burnout among our young people is waiting to happen.
Kooth (www.kooth.com) reported that in the last lockdown depression and sadness among children and young people rose by 170%. What will these figures look like this time without their coping mechanisms? Suggestions of going for a walk isn’t an inclusive offer and it fails to recognise that a lot of young people do not feel safe walking alone in the dark, as sunset is now around 4.30pm.
How do we find hope in the darkness?
Having something to look forward to is really important, for me sometimes it’s what I am going to have for dinner! Christmas is something to look forward to as well and this is and has been a source of hope for many.
However, Christmas is followed by January, which is already known for the “January Blues.” The fun and excitement of Christmas has gone and the attention is on the new year. January isn’t a hopeful month at the best of times. My worry is that if we are clinging on for Christmas, what will be our hope come January?
My attention particularly goes to the young people who have nothing to look forward to. Christmas is a tricky time, dinner isn’t exciting because parents are struggling to pay the bills, school is not a distraction because they are being bullied, home is hard because they may have to share their bedroom with younger or older siblings and have no alone time.
These young people are the most vulnerable to experiencing poor mental health and isolation. Who is there for them?
I don’t want to just be on the side-lines saying ‘we should probably help my generation’, I want to be in the centre of it, helping and supporting these young people.
Kintsugi Hope Youth & Transforming Lives for Good (TLG), have partnered together and are asking you to be part of the change too.
The crisis of poor mental health in our young people hasn’t just arrived, it’s been rampant for quite a while now.
Recent optimistic news concerning a vaccine can give some hope where COVID-19 is concerned, yet the ‘fall out’ from this period of time, especially for young people, will be felt for years to come.
There are so many ways you can be part of the solution.
You could join over 850 others in attending The Emotional Rollercoaster training webinar run by TLG, to spot the first signs of a young person struggling. Maybe that young person who is lashing out, is actually struggling with anxiety?
You may choose to sign up to a Kintsugi Hope Youth Wellbeing Group with your young people, providing a place to have these life-giving conversations around mental health and allowing them space to learn how to look after their own wellbeing.
Maybe there is a book you’ve been meaning to read about how to support young people with depression?
Whatever it is, we encourage you to make it a priority.
Let’s make a choice to not just acknowledge the struggle, but be part of the solution.
With twenty years’ experience working with children in both church and school situations, Rachel has pioneered and now heads up TLG’s Early Intervention programme supporting children struggling in mainstream primary and secondary schools. Oh, and she’s got three teenagers of her own at home!