How many of your family members, friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, or people you know have been impacted negatively by the Covid-19 pandemic? Loss of a loved one? Loss of a job? Loss of a business? Special travel plans dashed?
We have all been impacted in different ways by the Covid pandemic, of that there is little doubt. Perhaps only in time will we understand the deeper impact of Covid on our global community. And, it is this fact that caused me to look at some of the more recent research and reports on the impact of Covid on youth. I read articles or reports published in New Zealand, the USA, the UK, and another by UNICEF.
What struck me the most was the word ‘loss’ or words that relayed a similar message of youth losing hope in the future, an increase in anxiety levels, missing being with their friends, feeling more pessimistic about the future, many not asking for help, others lacking motivation to even do the activities they usually enjoyed.
Feedback from the UK Youth movement
An interesting report was produced recently by the UK Youth movement which had surveyed young people and others linked to working with youth. This report echoes so much of what I have read about the impact of Covid in countries around the world. The UK youth movement predicts that the impact on young people will include the following ranked in order of importance from youth responses.
- Increased mental health or wellbeing concern.
- Increased loneliness and isolation.
- Lack of safe space – including not being able to access their youth club or service and lack of safe spaces at home.
- Challenging family relationships.
- Lack of trusted relationships or someone to turn to.
- Increased social media or online pressure.
- Higher risk for engaging in gangs, substance misuse, carrying weapons or other harmful practices.
- Higher risk for sexual exploitation or grooming.
The report highlights some of the inevitable spin-offs as a result of the impact of the pandemic on the economy such as redundancies in the youth sector, closures of youth-related organizations due to lack of funding, reduced funding, and reduced staff hours. Naturally, should some or all of these developments occur, youth will be even more lost, lonely, and at high risk, especially those living in urban environments.
Other youth feedback
A report from a USA government department, Youth. gov stated: “… more than 1 in 4 young people reported an increase in losing sleep because of worry, feeling unhappy or depressed, feeling constantly under strain, or experiencing a loss of confidence in themselves.”
The Global Child Forum highlighted an important point: ” … children and youth are especially vulnerable to the greater societal shifts being witnessed as a result of the virus.”
The New Zealand government quotes research that shows evidence that youth are more at risk of adverse psychological, social, health, economic and educational effects post-disasters – such as the Covid pandemic.
A youth mentoring Great Awakening movement
One can spend hours reading similar reports to that of UK Youth and reflecting on the feedback from youth. However, we need to be solutions focused, rather than allow ourselves to be dragged into a ‘doom and gloom’ cesspit of negativity. We need governments of national unity to create new pathways for the future, some fresh thinking, possibly some fresh funding priorities focused on youth and their education, and the promotion of the spirit of mentoring. It is this latter point that seems to be lacking as a possible solution in the many reports I have been reading, yet we have millions of ‘Baby Boomers’ who could probably be encouraged to move alongside youth to encourage and guide them along a pathway of hope. They can shine a light into the confusion and possible fear and anxiety of our youth.
Again, government initiatives could help, though governments are reluctant to pour money into youth mentoring as this is not a quick-fix issue, rather one that takes an investment of time and energy with significant potentially positive results that can transform whole communities. Sad that self-interest and vote-catching ideas take the place of long-term solutions to build communities and to build a nation. Will there be some visionary businesses that not only offer their employees the time (during office hours) to mentor youth, but will also help fund such initiatives? Investing in the future of our youth has to have positive spin-offs.
The power of mentoring
Over the years I have had the privilege of being a mentor to over a thousand teenagers and witnessed the powerful impact of mentoring relationships. In my book, Mentoring Minutes: Weekly Messages to Encourage Anyone Guiding Youth I share one of many of these mentoring stories as examples of how a wise and experienced guide moved alongside a young person keen to be in a relationship of trust and care and a life was transformed.
Fifteen-year-old Mason reflected on a nine-month mentoring relationship with his mentor, Ruth, in a school-based mentoring program:
From this mentoring journey I learnt a lot of things such as, what I wanted to do for my future career and how I was going to achieve the goals I set for myself. The mentoring journey has also showed me how I could improve my life so I wasted a lot less time on things that didn’t matter, and I decided to use that time to help myself achieve my long-term goals. I don’t think I could have achieved this without the help of my mentor and this mentoring program.
I have enjoyed sharing this journey with Mason. I have seen him grow in confidence and self-belief. He has made positive changes in his daily life, has discovered a career path that interests him, and has become more assertive. I have enjoyed his sense of humor. I wish him well for his future and know that if he continues to believe in himself, he will accomplish more than he ever dreamed of.
We can encourage school communities to set up youth mentoring and peer mentoring programs, start to think outside the box and take on fresh, new and proven approaches to educating our youth in a post pandemic global community and, where possible, support those youth organizations undertaking critically important work supporting youth.