Mental Health

'I was stuck in a room with no privacy': Fears that pandemic will have long-term impacts on disadvantaged young people

A new report from the Irish Youth Foundation has been published today.

THE MAJORITY OF youth workers believe the pandemic will have long-term impacts on disadvantaged young people.

That’s according to a new report from the Irish Youth Foundation (IYF) and Amárach Research which surveyed over 300 youth workers and conducted in-depth interviews with 25 youth workers and 20 young people living with disadvantage. 

The IYF is a charity supporting children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

More than four in five (82%) of youth workers surveyed believe the pandemic will result in long-term damage for the young people in their communities. 

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of workers surveyed said they believe the pandemic will result in long-term mental health issues for disadvantaged young people.

Lucy Masterson, CEO of IYF, said: “What we are looking at here is a potential generational timebomb that has [been] and is ticking away out of sight, behind the headlines about the health crisis and the daily Covid-19 numbers.

“This report tells us that the last year of isolation, latent trauma, and long periods without direct interaction with school or other community supports has magnified problems that many children in disadvantaged communities already faced.” she said. 

More than one-third (36%) of workers surveyed said years of positive and supportive work with disadvantaged communities was wiped out due to Covid-19.

Half said they are concerned that the young people they work with are lacking crucial social skills and resilience.

Nine in 10 youth workers believe that mental health has been the biggest challenge for young people they work with during the pandemic.

This has been exacerbated by extended periods of isolation, inactivity, lack of structure, lack of safe spaces and living in overcrowded/chaotic housing situations.

The report said youth workers were concerned about the loss of in-person schooling experienced by young people over the past year.

Seven in 10 said a loss of morale and regressing long-term aspirations were challenges experienced by young people in education.

Inadequate housing situations was also flagged by youth workers as an issue, with more than 40% concerned that disadvantaged children spent the past year in inappropriate and overcrowded housing situations,. 

‘Motivation is a big challenge’

A number of quotes from youth workers interviewed were included in the report.

Here is a sample of the quotes included.

Young people are feeling utterly hopeless, they don’t engage as quickly as they did in the past. Motivation is a big challenge. They have lost the view of themselves – long term aspirations have regressed, it’s more about getting by day to day.
For so many of the kids we support, the most negative factors in their lives became the only factors in their lives. There was no break from a dangerous or chaotic home situation because they were not able to go to school, or come to us in the youth project.

A number of quotes were also included from anonymous young people interviewed.

My family lives in an incredibly cramped flat. I’m in one room with my parents and my sister. When there was no lockdown I could go outside, but with lockdown I was stuck in the same room all the time with my family and had no privacy. During the pandemic my aunt, uncle and cousin had to move in with us as well as they lost their space.
 Alcohol and drug addiction are on the increase from what I’m seeing. People my age are drinking cos they’re ‘not in the humour today’. It’s becoming a more regular behaviour now and I think it’s being overlooked right now. Mental health issues as well – this goes hand in hand with the addiction challenges.

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