What are the longer-term effects of the pandemic - particularly for our young people?
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And so it came to pass that after two years of restrictions, the powers that be removed all Covid rules and we were free once again to share germs with all and sundry. But in one turbulent week in February, the weather had other ideas; Storm Eunice blew us all sideways into one more day of home-schooling as schools shut across the county.
On the one hand, it is nothing short of amazing that our super-efficient schools and teaching staff are now able to flip to online learning in a matter of hours – something that would have been inconceivable two years ago. On the other hand, the home-school experience felt a little bit like putting on an old shoe that was perfectly useable but the last time you wore it, gave you blisters. I’m sure I’m not the only one that was filled with a certain amount of dread on that windy Friday as the demands of multiple school-age children had the internet straining at the seams.
Joking aside, the after-effects of the pandemic are no laughing matter – particularly for our young people. Being thrown back into online learning really put into perspective for me just how bizarre the last two years have been. We all did a great job of normalising the many lockdowns, we had no choice, but even as we lift restrictions now and are expected to go back to ‘normal’ we need to be careful not to overlook the knock-on effects of such a generation-defining experience. Every day, I hear more stories of people of all ages struggling to come to terms with increased anxiety. The world has been a scary place recently. Encouraged to fear human contact, for our own safety, it has been a hard enough journey to process as adults so I can only imagine how it all sits heavily within the heads of our young people. Now more than ever it is important to keep talking to each other and to seek help if those thoughts and feelings become intrusive or too big to handle.
I have previously signposted some of the organisations and charities such as Samaritans, Talkworks and SPACE Youth Service that can provide assistance for all, but with our overstretched public services I would also like to point out another organisation for young people. Normal Magic is a private mental health organisation that is a first port of call to start a conversation about balancing mental health for Under 18’s. Able to offer one to one counselling services, the organisation can also signpost to freely available help too that could become part of your support system where appropriate. With CAMHS waiting lists at an all-time high, it is good to know that for those who can afford to pay to seek support, there are high-quality services out there. Normal Magic is a team of professionals with backgrounds in Mental Health Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Teaching, Clinical Psychology and Consultant Psychiatry and their website (normalmagic.co.uk) has lots of information and some free resources that highlight what they’re all about.
We may be throwing the masks in the bin, but the longer-term impact of Covid won’t be so easy to discard. Let’s not allow our young people to suffer in silence, let’s normalise the conversation about mental health and know that there is support out there.