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Isolated

Isolated

ISOLATED

 

One of the most significant public health measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended periods of ‘lockdown’, whereby whole populations have been advised to remain in their households. There are increasing calls to understand the impacts of this lockdown and of the subsequent school closures on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people across the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. To shed some light on this matter, MIND carried out a survey with 2,011 young people with a history of mental health problems between Friday September 15 and Wednesday September 30, shortly after schools had reopened. The findings showed:

 

·69% of the respondents described their mental health as ‘poor’ now that they were back at school; this had risen from 58% who described their mental health as ‘poor’ before returning to school.

·40% of the respondents said there was no school counsellor available to support the students in their school.

·Only 27% had had a one-to-one conversation with a teacher or other member of staff in which they were asked about their wellbeing by the time they completed the survey.

·Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said that there was less mental health support in their school than before the pandemic, whilst only 9% agreed that there was more mental health support.

 

After discussions with teachers and youth leaders, we decided to devise ISOLATED. It will consist of:

 

·         Online workshops. These will be conducted on Zoom/Microsoft teams, and will discuss a series of subjects related to mental health. A workshop facilitator who trained in delivering theatre and health/education work for young people (more specifically, a mental health awareness course) will run four sessions per group (eight young people per group recommended). The sessions will consist of:

-             Guided discussions.

-             Use of theatre and drama (i.e., monologues; forum theatre).

-             Teaching resources for teachers and youth leaders to use for follow-up work.

 

The themes of the sessions are as follows:

 

Session 1: Identifying normal mental health. What is normal, and what does it look like? When does it become abnormal? Factors affecting mental health in our lives.

 

Session 2: Starting to explore what we can do individually. Action plans, SOLER Listening skills, simple ways to overcome loneliness, discussing worries about school and the future about mental health and wellbeing impacts of lockdown on parents/carers, worries about financial security, homelife, the future, etc.


Session 3: Common mental health issues. Stress: what is it and what does it look like? Depression: how would we know? Anxiety: what is it what does it look like? Eating disorders and self-harm = unhealthy coping strategies for anxiety.


Session 4: Mentally healthier in youth organisations (Schools, youth centres, young and homeless hostels, etc.). Here, we look at what can be done to help and what we can do in our environments.

 

·         Debating platforms (Online). Discuss with young people what their expectations are from the youth and education sector to support them both right now and tomorrow.

 

·         Podcast projectSudden Productions would like to release a podcast series featuring monologues written by/with young people based on their experiences of lockdown and its impact on their mental health. The monologues will be told by local young actors and will be followed by interviews of young people commenting on the issues or sharing their own real-life experiences.

 

We believe prevention programmes are most effective when young people participate: with active youth involvement, young people are better protected, better outcomes are achieved, innovative approaches are realised,decisions are more applicable to the needs of the youth, and the young people involved improve in important skills (e.g., communication; cooperation). Participation also builds character and confidence when young people feel needed and appreciated.

Testimonial:

Lockdown, for me, has been a time to reflect. [For] Most of the days in lockdown, I felt myself revisiting events or people from my past; however, with the time to myself that lockdown had brought, I was revisiting these things with an abundance of thoughts; sometimes the way I thought about certain things made me spiral out of control and at many points over the last few months I found myself in very, very dark places.

                                                      - Aaron Mann (Year 11, Finham Park School)