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1 in 4 youth can’t cope in pandemic, Christian mental health expert says peer support is key

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian mental health expert has urged youth groups to work on helping young people develop valuable friendships as research shows the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating for their mental health.

Research by the Prince’s Trust found more 16-25 year olds are feeling anxious now than in the 12-year history of the study.

 It also claims that one in four young people have felt "unable to cope with life" since the start of the outbreak.

Joel Harris, youth coordinator from Christian mental health charity Kintsugi Hope, told Premier it’s a very worrying trend.

“We've been seeing over the past three to four months that all research about well-being and about people's mental health in the pandemic has pointed out these 16 to 25 year-olds are the ones that have been hit the hardest, are the ones that are struggling, the most lonely and the most anxious because of this pandemic. It’s just more proof that this generation has been overlooked in this pandemic.”

The Youth Index, conducted by YouGov, gauges young people’s happiness and confidence levels across a range of areas, from their working life to their physical and mental health.

This year’s report, which surveyed 2,180 16 to 25-year olds across the UK, claimed that more than half of them (56 per cent) "always" or "often" feel anxious.

It also found that 68 per cent feel they are missing out on being young, 62 per cent feel they’ve lost a year of their lives and 38 per cent are dreading the year ahead.

Harris said he’s found this to be true for a lot of university students, who have been looking forward to the excitement, freedom and progression that comes with being away from home but have found it’s been stifled by coronavirus restrictions.

“Instead of partying, instead of meeting people, instead of having this incredible freedom, you're trapped in this little flat with some people you’re not sure if you actually like and the reality of what's happening is hitting hard,” he said.

“A lot of uni students feel like the Government actually haven't given them much support. They've been overlooked and they lack motivation. It seems like the fun has been sucked out of their world. All these expectations for the best years of their lives have fallen short dramatically.”

Harris said it’s vital for young people to have relationships where there’s transparency so they can help each other.

Kintsugi Hope runs well-being groups in schools, universities and youth groups, which create opportunities for young people to develop relationships to support one another through tough times.

“We need to increase this idea of talking to your friends about these subjects,” he said. “Being vulnerable and being honest is scary but it's so brave and it's so life-giving. You’ll realise you're not on your own, you’ll realise people are going through this and you can learn tips of how to look after your well-being from your friends.”

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