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  • Michael Barrows

Building Connections

We as humans are social beings, we need a sense of security and community. We need a sense of belonging. The pandemic as really highlighted to a great deal to us, the importance of the contact we have with our wider network for our own well being, the strength and resilience of these relationships and the necessity of them.

Young Minds have been completing surveys with over 2000 young people aged 13-25 over the three UK based lockdowns. The first study highlighted that over 83% of young people felt that the lockdown had impacted negatively on their mental (51% a bit worse, 32% much worse). Though a majority (76%) of these young people were still able to access some level of mental health support, services were struggling (YoungMinds 2021).


In the second summer lockdown ‘87% of respondents agreed that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period, even though 71% had been able to stay in touch with friends’1. Even though we were able to go out and see people in public parks and open spaces, young people were choosing not to, felt unable to or felt too restricted. Young people of the LGBTQ demographic felt that their dysphoria increased, anxious young people were over thinking more due to the lack of distractions that would otherwise serve as coping mechanisms (YoungMinds 2021).


The third lockdown has had the biggest impact. 75% of respondents agreed that they have found the current lockdown harder to cope with than the previous ones including 44% who said it said it was much harder. (14% said it was easier, 11% said it was the same).

(YoungMinds 2021)


This may be down to the fact that the nights have become darker, the weather colder, but also in my own experience, young people were feeling more under pressure from schools through their online learning. We all wished for a Christmas that would allow ourselves to see more family and to look forward to something. Those outside of London were offered 5 days to see family and other households, only for this to be reduced to one day, with London not being able to see anyone at all. A lot of the young people I have been working with this year, but feel like the time has just been a blur. It has also shown how reliant our young people can be on having some direction and purpose in their lives. If this is taken away, a lot of them have felt forlorn.


67% believed that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health (YoungMinds 2021). This included the lasting effects of trauma’s, bereavements, but also the wider impact on relationships and feeling that these won’t recover the same way.

And this is just the young people. We as adults have suffered and I hope that the biggest reflection people take away form this year is how much the people in our lives mean to us. A friend of mine commented that he felt that it was the knowing that you could not see someone was the hardest thing. We can go weeks or months without seeing people, taking for granted that we just could. Now it almost becomes a logistical nightmare of whether you can or not, or whether walking the dog is considered exercise?


Some have thrived in the lockdowns, people with social anxiety have felt some reprieve in not having to face their day to day struggles to be around others. Some who have a larger online presence than the ‘real world’ have felt happy to have more time to explore this and play. A recent study from My.Games was done looking at how gamers were feeling during the lockdowns. Of a sample of over 21,000 people largely in the US, UK and Europe aged 14 and above, 64% felt that interacting with other gamers gave them a strong sense of connection (My.Games 2021).



Pic taken from https://my.games/en/news/100


I miss being able to be out with different groups, because not only does this give me a social element but also a sense of belonging. This is key for everyone as we are social animals, but I would argue more significantly though for adolescents, where this is the point in their brain development that helps them build who they are as individuals. My blacksmithing group allows me space to learn and realise that time and effort will yield results, but also some reassurance that there are people just a bad at it as I am. My table-top group gives me place to explore the creativity in the lore of the games we play, to immerse ourselves into a whole new world.



But we have to stay creative with what we do. We started well with the Zoom quizzes and virtual socials. Companies adapted and took their services online so we can feel that we are still able to treat ourselves. I don’t hear much of this now, I hear of Zoom fatigue and this loss of creativity, lack of goals or drive. Just waiting for it to be over. We are no longer living in the moment but waiting for it to end. Frankly, I too think the most recent lockdown has been the hardest. I’m also not of the mind that things will be back to ‘normal’ for some time as the virus still exists out there. So, we need to stay creative and bring that energy back because it showed us how resilient we could be. It demonstrates how resilient we are. As the book ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhert Tolle highlights. The future is a moment that has not happened yet, but in the now we are able to create change. Things may change for the better and new opportunities to tap back into our old interests will become more available but we still need to remember what we can do now.


Reference

1- https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/

2- https://my.games/en/news/100

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