Understanding the Impact of Lockdown on the Mental Health of a Bereaved Teen
In order to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be a bereaved teen in lockdown, we invited a young person to comment on her first-hand experiences and recommendations.
This Children’s Mental Health Week, the impact of lockdown is the topic of everyone’s conversation. This blog is about the impact of the three lockdowns on our society and, specifically how it affects bereaved teenagers like me.
According to statistics published by the NHS digital (Nov 2020), young women are now the worst affected by mental health issues with a quarter of those aged 17 to 22 likely to have a mental disorder.
I am 17 years old, I have lost both parents, and I cannot even begin to describe how much the pandemic has completely changed my life and experiences. On March 23rd, England was placed into its first national lockdown. I think it was a massive shock to everyone as we had very little understanding of how serious this virus was at the time. That day my brother and I also relocated 250 miles away from our hometown to live with relatives.
At the time I was a year 11 pupil preparing to sit my GCSEs. I had been working hard to achieve the best grades I could get. I was already anxious about the exams so, to hear that I might not be sitting them was confusing. I had been working very hard since year 9 (when I started the GCSE courses) so to be unsure as to whether I was actually going to sit the exam, or not, made me extremely nervous. The decision was taken out of my hands and on the Monday, that was it. The country was locked down and I was living in a new house, town and county without sitting my final GCSE exams, and with no prom on the horizon.
The first week in lockdown one was not so hard, although we were housebound. It had not really sunk in that we weren’t allowed to go anywhere. I had a gorgeous view to look at, three dogs and loads of food. I think about it now and I realise that was so lucky to have all the things I did back then. Not everyone had the same surroundings as me. I think it took time for the reality of my situation to sink in and lockdown soon became hard for everyone. I was well out my comfort zone. Not going out and seeing my friends everyday felt so weird, almost as if I were grounded.
Teenagers want to socialise, go out, have parties and all this was stopped suddenly and unexpectedly. We thrive and learn from our interactions and we want to make the most out of our lives whist we are still really young. A lot of teenagers began to struggle without seeing their close friends and family. This caused a huge increase in the use of technology and social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Some people became obsessed. As the younger members of society have started to become addicted to social media, mental health has begun to deteriorate for some. The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary shows this clearly.
During the first lockdown, I realise now that I felt alone, isolated and confused about my emotions. I specifically remember having dark thoughts because of this. It was definitely difficult living in an unfamiliar area and with relatives whom I didn’t yet know well. It was tough facing a lot of emotional challenges at the same time. I found it useful having social media to stay in contact with my friends from back home, but I was still pretty closed off by my state of mind. Regarding schoolwork, I had nothing to do every day as I wasn’t being set work by my school. effectively, I left school early with an extended summer break. I felt lost without a purpose. I managed to turn this around and instead, I used my time to research different colleges and subjects to prepare for my A levels.
Thankfully, during the first lockdown, I also sought help. By working with a private professional counsellor and my family, I found that my emotional well-being began to gradually improve. Self-care such as regular exercise helped me. Our new family had long walks together on the beach and we all met in the garden for badminton tournaments almost every day in the summer.
During lockdown one, in the UK, teen suicides rose from 8.1% to 9.2% from March to May according to the BBC. Even though this statistic seems like a small increase, the numbers went up by 1.1% in just 8 weeks showing a rapid rise. The total increase of all suicides in the UK in 2020 is estimated to be 1.9% but the true impact of lockdowns on young suicide is still to be determined.
In November, England was placed into a second lockdown. However, it was not as strict as the first lockdown because students sand pupils were still allowed to attend school and college. It did not really affect me that much because I was still able to attend my new college. I was happy to make see my new friends on a daily basis and although, the lockdown did cancel many of my birthday plans, I still made the most out of my 17th birthday.
Currently we are in lockdown three. At the moment we have the same rules as we did in the first lockdown meaning that we must attend online lessons instead of going to school and college. As much as I would love to be going into college, I am enjoying the extra hour in bed and I feel as though the lessons are more interactive. I often find myself getting involved in more conversations with my classes online than I would do in person.
At college I was being offered bereavement support once a week from a local charity. I think that schools and colleges provide a great environment to support discussions about mental health. Unfortunately, due to lockdown, the support that the charity was offering has been suspended leaving me with no grief support at all. I have found out that this is because they do not have the insurance to offer support via the phone or online. Considering the virus has been spreading across the UK since March, I’d have thought the charity would have sorted out their provision for another lockdown. It seems like they have let their service users down at a time when the services are needed the most, which is upsetting.
I think that more mental health support should be provided for more pupils in more schools and colleges, rather than less during times of lockdown. Luckily, some charities such as Young Minds are still available during lockdown and some private counsellors are giving free sessions for those in need it, whether it be for grief, mental health or divorce.
Luckily, my family are able to afford private counselling but that isn’t the case for all families. Currently there are thousands of people suffering with grief, trying to cope in abusive households and mental illnesses such as depression. It is important that all young people have access to mental health support.
Looking back, I realise how fortunate I was to have an amazing, supportive family guiding me through the three lockdowns. As a teenager, I think I sometimes forget that adults are also facing the same situation as us, they were also unable to see their family and friends, they also feel low from time to time.
The biggest lesson I have learned is to become more self-aware and appreciate what you have, there is always someone somewhere in a worse situation than you. It is a difficult time for everyone, and I think that we need to look to the future and have positive thoughts to get us through the pandemic. It is also important to chat through any tricky issues that you might be managing alone before they become too much of an emotional burden and overwhelm you, so I would encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out and talk to someone.
Safe-guarding.co is very grateful to this young person for bravely sharing experiences and recommendations for this blog.
Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place on 1-7 February 2021. This year’s theme is Express Yourself. Visit: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/ to find out more.
For more information on how to support schools/ colleges and resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding in learning environments, please contact us.
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