Delighted to talk to BBC Radio Devon on the impact of covid-19 pandemic on young people

It was great to have been interviewed about the impact of the covid-19 lockdown on children and young people
This was part of BBC RadioDevon breakfast show with Gordon Sparks. It was my first radio appearance and I was naturally apprehensive. I was invited to participate in my role as a clinical psychologist specialised in working with children and young people to comment on the impact of the lockdown on children’s well-being. I was also asked to comment on the use of the label ‘lost generation’ to describe the current generation of young people who may not be as well equipped and prepared due to the ongoing school closures due to the lockdown. Below I share with you my views on the topics I was interviewed on. Please note that this is not a transcript of the interview. If you do wish to listen to it, just follow the link (from 1:42 in):

What do I think is the impact of lockdown on children and young people?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children and young people as a whole. On the one hand, children and young people who had previous experience of mental health difficulties may have these accentuated due to disruption to mental health services during lockdown and inability to receive support. On the other hand, some children and young people without previous experience of mental health services may now be likely to have emotional difficulties because of a number of changes related to life in lockdown. Social distancing, school closures, lack of familiar routines such attending sports clubs, enjoying hobbies and meeting up with family and friends have been limited during lockdown. Furthermore, family stresses including fear of catching the Covid-19 virus, concern for relatives, uncertainty regarding employment and what the future will bring are additional factors which can also impact on children and young people’s well-being.

How can psychologists help?

Psychologists such as clinical psychologists can help by:

1. Listening to children and young people. By listening to children and young people’s experiences and trying to understand what it is like for them to be in this situation, psychologists can offer support. Even through online sessions, psychologists can also offer support by enabling social contact with another person and giving young people an opportunity to share any distressing thoughts. 

2. Thinking together and collaborate on finding practical strategies. Together, children, young people and psychologists can come up with practical strategies which may help.

3. Supporting parents and carers. During lockdown, parents have to juggle many roles. They have to be parents, employees, teachers, carers, community volunteers, key workers, and other roles. Parents may have faced the death of a  relative or friend, may have concerns about health, finances, job prospects. It is clear that all of these experiences are going to have an impact on everyone’s well-being. By supporting parents at this challenging time, psychologists are also supporting the whole family.

Young people don’t need to be called ‘lost generation’, what they need is support

The UNESCO ( estimates that 1.34 billion children have been out of school due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, there have been concerns about the long-term impact of the school closures on the educational preparedness of young people. A few have voiced that if we don’t help young people now, these may be a ‘lost generation’. In my view, although I totally agree that children and young people resume education safely as soon as possible – as Education is a Human Right – I do not think that negative labels should be used to describe young people (even if with good intentions).

We know that young people are already at times misrepresented in the media. For instance, young people are sometimes described in a negative way by the media. Rather that using further negative labels to describe young people, I think we need more than ever describe young people accurately and positively.

Young people need constructive narratives that highlight their situation and their strengths

1. Young people need access to education, social,  financial and emotional support. It is key that the current generation is supported early to prevent even further challenges in the future. When the current generation of young people will enter adulthood, they will experience recession at a significant level, so they need good education and resilience to face the challenges ahead.

2. Young people need to have their strengths recognised. Whilst remaining realistic about the challenges, we need to continue to recognise the strengths in young people. Young people are digitally savvy, they are concerned and informed about how we should look after our limited resources and care for our planet. Young people are aware of social injustices and leading on protests against racism. We need to support young people to continue these social movements so that collectively we all contribute to a better world.

3. Young people need to be  given a voice. The way in which world leaders have varied in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, showed very clearly to young people that adults do not have all the answers to deal with global crisis. As such, young people need to be included and listened to when responding to challenges, particularly when these greatly affect them now and in the future.

Stay hopeful!

Dora Bernardes