Impact of Covid-19 Lockdown on Mental Health of Teenagers: Analytical Essay
Due to the growing number of deaths and cases of Covid-19, lockdown was issued by Boris Johnson on March 23rd 2020. The lockdown rules are reviewed every three weeks by the Prime Minister who would announce further plans to lift certain measures. Although, in between those 3 weeks, uncertainty was evident for all. The new lifestyle and rules everyone had to abide by was growing to be a real challenge. However, it seemed that teenagers were having it worse due to the fact exams were being cancelled, social interaction was limited, and boredom was having a daily occurrence. In the short term, many teenagers enjoyed the idea of not having to go through these stressful exams. But teenagers soon came to realize that the inevitable exams were a big turning point within their lives which they now could never experience.
I created a questionnaire for around 15 to 20 teenagers and the responses and results clearly showed the mostly negative impact lockdown is having on teenager’s mental health.
My finding from the questionnaire I created proved the idea that those who originally had mental health issues are having concerns and issues with the growth of their mental health within lockdown. A specific question in my questionnaire was: ‘Has lockdown made you realize that you suffer from mental health issues like anxiety, depression and so on?’. And although there were a range of response, on average most said that their mental health has progressed for the worse and also that they are now seeing signs of mental health symptoms. More specifically they are seeing that anxiety is making a growing appearance in their everyday lives. And of course, many said they disliked lockdown and there reasons why where very similar. Most explained that not being able to see vulnerable members of my family and progress friendships is having a massive toll on their mental health. Also, my findings suggested that most teenagers don’t feel as though they have any freedom and having no schedule to abide by is not helping them at all. And although school helps distract some teenagers form their mental health, many say that it also adds to the progression of it. Overall, my questionnaire discovered that on a scale of 1-10, teenagers rate the effect of lockdown on their mental health as a 6. Another finding I had was that the theme of loneliness had a common occurrence when referring to how they felt during lockdown. Also, loneliness was a big factor regarding the reason as to why their mental health has got worse. Lastly, my questionnaire discovered that the night is when mental health issues have their greatest negative impacts. This overthinking and mental health makes an appearance most during this time period because teenagers thought pattern hinders cognitive processing and also causes overstimulation of emotion- and fear-processing areas in the brain. Overthinking and worrying tricks teens brains into believing that they are preparing for any situation, that they can handle any outcome, positive or negative. In reality, while this may work in the short-term, it ultimately harms people but most specifically teenagers because their brains are still developing.
As I proceeded to do research regarding the mental health of teenagers, staggering statistics were presented before me. The Duke of Edinburgh’s website discovered that 71% of 9,913 teenagers are concerned about their academic knowledge and skills worsening and 46% worry about their mental health. Although there a no specific numbers to show a spike in teenager suicides, most professionals can predict that there will be astronomical numbers. The earliest signs of whether the pandemic is driving up suicides will likely emerge among those who have had a history of managing waves of self-destructive distress. Many of these people, who number in the millions worldwide, go through each day compulsively tuned to the world’s problems and issues and its suspicious glances and rude remarks. Therefore, they are prone to isolating themselves, at times contemplating a final exit plan. Therefore, when they are in a confined space everyday with their own thoughts, suicide is highly likely to be considered sadly.
Other sources like news websites and psychologists suggest that teenagers are finding lockdown to have such an impact on their mental health because there teenage years are the developmental stage where they transition from being dependent children to autonomous adults. And as part of this process, there relationships with their families tend to become more conflictual as teenagers strive for independence. Peer relationships are crucially important for social development and for the development of self-identity at this stage. The sense of belonging and connection as a teen is much more about peers than about family. To conclude, the developmental drive during our teenage years is about separating from the family and forming friends. Therefore, being locked down with family and not being able to spend time with friends stops this development.
Another source I discovered during my findings was the Guardian website. There article suggested that teenagers were losing their ‘teenage years’ which could be very detrimental to their future. It also suggested that exams are what teenagers have been told will “shape the rest of their lives” and their cancellation has “cast into uncertainty”. Lastly, the most important source I discovered was Childline and their statistics. Childline is a counselling service for children and young people up until they are 19 years old. It is provided by the NSPCC and is only based within the UK. The calls to Childline have increased significantly during the pandemic and more specifically lockdown, according to NSPCC. Michelle Green, NSPCC’s Channel Islands’ representative, told ITV News that they are receiving multiple calls from young people calling about their mental health. And every week since lockdown the ChildLine has delivered over 2,000 counselling sessions with children concerned about their mental health and emotional wellbeing – “nearly 17,000 over 7 weeks”, according to the NSPCC.
On the other hand, some teenagers say lockdown has had a positive effective. Lockdown has taught teens that they are stronger than they think. And it’s also helped teenagers to cope with their mental issues even more because they have actually had the time to do that and not have any interruptions. A response in my questionnaire regarding the question ‘Do you dislike lockdown and why?’ was ‘I like it because we aren’t doing much and it’s relaxing’. Therefore, although most find it an unusual time, they also find it a learning experience during their adolescent years. Another website was the Duke of Edinburgh’s website which had a survey. The survey found that that 47% of 9,913 young people have learned a new skill or rediscovered an old one during lockdown and 44% have become closer to friends and family. And these aspects factor in with helping the progress of mental health in a positive way. Especially regarding friends and family because they can support you during this tough time. Also, different surveys from an array of different news sources suggest that teenagers are taking this lockdown experience to help them with their physical appearance. Again, the Duke of Edinburgh’s website founds that almost half (48%) of 9,913 teenagers are spending more time being active. Also, social media apps have had an increase in postings regarding people doing home workouts. Specifically, Instagram and TikTok have had a spark in workout content due to teenagers having the time to be able to do these workouts instead of stressing with school. But of course, this spark in content can also increase mental health issues because the societal problems like body image and the ‘ideal’ body are heavily influenced. And its heavily influence can be presented in an unhealthy way most of the time. Therefore, the idea of getting physically fit and doing daily workout is positive but as long as it’s done in a healthy way.
As a teenager in lockdown, I have obviously experienced it first-hand. In my opinion, I believe lockdown has had both a positive and negative impact on my mental health. Firstly, I was going to finish year 11 and do my GCSEs and then I would have proceeded to have had a really long summer with my friends, hopefully go abroad – have that summer that everyone has. But weeks later, I was bidding a rushed goodbye to my friends on my last day of school before it closed because of coronavirus. And although there is still a chance for this summer, it’s still not certain which creates an unnerving feeling. Also, the erupt cancellation in my exams has stopped me from experiencing life changing experiences and events in my adolescent years. I am also unable to strive for independence, create peer relationships which is crucial for my social development and my development of self-identity. And the once sense of belonging and connection has gone abandoned during these difficult times. I feel as though I am not a ‘normal’ teenager because I have not experienced the ‘normal’ teen events and that in itself has affected me mentally. I have also felt quite vulnerable due to the sense of vulnerability that is obviously evident for everyone. Secondly, I noticed at the beginning of lockdown, my anxiety was having a major impact on my life. I started to become anxious when calling, texting and facetiming my friends and most importantly I felt anxious because I was feeling detached from society. Overthinking was making an appearance every day and it seemed to consume my life. However, I believe that this was a learning experience because the further into lockdown we got, the more I was able to cope with these uncertain and unusual experiences. And although it effected my mental health negatively, it was also positive. During lockdown I was able to learn about self-identity and I was also able to grow as an individual. Body image was something I had always been anxious about and I had always had a habit of overthinking it, but lockdown has allowed me to worry less and to be more trusting and confident in myself. Overall, lockdown has been a bittersweet experience that has helped me mentally grow as an individual but has also had detrimental negative effects for my mental health.
Regarding school, teenagers understand that school can keep them occupied and can distract them. My questionnaire included the question, ‘Do you think school is useful in a sense that it is distraction you from mental health?’, and the results clearly showed that they like the idea of it providing somewhat of a structure in their life. However, everyone mentioned that it can get overwhelming and stressful due to the amount of work being set by teachers. Also, everyone within the questionnaire mentioned that there is a lot of pressure to perform well and that effects their mental health. Also, they dislike the fact that some teachers have said the work is optional when in actual fact it’s very much compulsory. However, every teenager I have interacted with wishes to go back to school because they want to feel a sense of schedule and normality again. They also want this time of uncertainty to restore to its ‘normal’ world again. Overall, I know that every teenager is attempting to achieve well and persevere even though Covid-19 has challenged teens and provided setbacks.
In conclusion, the Covid-19 lockdown has had both a positive and negative effect on teenager’s mental health. Although, it seems that it has had more of a negative impact due to the lack of social interaction and the fact most adolescents will be unable to develop and experience the life changing events like GCSE exams. Teenagers will not be able to experience the feeling of putting the pen down on their last GCSE paper and they will not have the dream summer where they can relax after doing months of revision. And these missing experiences cause the teen to overthink the fact that they will not experience this.
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