The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s mental health to a greater or lesser degree. We are all trying to look after ourselves as best we can under the circumstances, but so much uncertainty from day to day, not just from week to week, takes its toll. But young people and children need extra help, support, and attention to reassure them that this too will pass.
As the situation evolves, anxiety levels may change, and young people’s moods can change from hour to hour, this is a quite normal phenomenon for teenagers anyway without the additional concerns and uncertainties that Covid-19 has added to their lives.
A study carried out by DCU showed that young people between the ages of 18 and 29 years reported significantly greater mental health issues during the pandemic. Those aged 50 years and above did not appear to suffer to the same degree. Jigsaw has reported that it has seen a 25 per cent increase in referrals over the past two months. It has also seen a 400 per cent increase in its online service in the same time scale. Much of the excitement for first year undergraduates has been taken away from them. They now find themselves sitting in front of a computer for most of the day, trying to come to terms with the “new normal” of online learning. There are no social gatherings in college, societies, clubs to join where they would have the opportunity to meet new people, share new experiences like living away from home, making decisions for themselves, and taking on extra responsibilities as they grow into adulthood.
Martin Rogan, chef executive of Mental Health Ireland, is very critical of our mental health provision. Since the 1980s our mental health services were mainly bed-based, we now have the lowest bed to population ratio in Europe.
Schools have completed their first term back at school following the first lockdown, and already there are high stress and anxiety levels regarding the 2021 Leaving Certificate. Will it be predicted grades again, or will the class of 2021 actually get to sit the traditional Leaving Cert?
How stress can affect us
Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally, and physically. Stress can also affect how you behave.
Some students and adults can feel emotionally overwhelmed, and irritable. This can lead to feelings of anxiety or fear, and as a result may also lead to a lack in self-esteem.
Concentration and the ability to make decisions easily in the past can now affect us negatively. This in turn may lead to constantly worrying, which is what most anxiety is about – worrying about the future and about things that may never happen.
Stress can affect us physically also. You may have headaches and experience dizziness. Another physical symptom you may experience is tiredness. Or you may have problems sleeping. Some people can eat too much or too little when they are under stress. A common symptom of stress is having muscle tension or pain.
Stress can also lead to an increase in alcohol consumption, or you may find yourself smoking more than you usually would
Stress can also make you avoid things or people you are having problems with, which can lead to loneliness.
Tips for dealing with stress
Always tell someone how you are feeling.
Go for a walk.
Keep in touch with close friends and family.
Take some form of exercise.
Do not set unrealistic goals for yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
Stop yourself when you catch your negative thought process kicking in.
Start a gratitude journal – write down five positive things that happened to you each day.