“When we were first asked to stay at home, back in March 2020, I genuinely felt kind of happy. At that moment I had just finished all my uni exams, and the idea of relaxing at home for a couple of weeks was not bad at all. Little did I know that those two weeks were the beginning of my anxiety and depression”. Jessica* is only one of the hundred of thousands people who have been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Now I go to therapy once a week, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to feel normal again”.
Covid-19 has had important consequences on the health of the population, with over 150,000 deaths in the UK alone and more than five million worldwide since the start of the pandemic. The impact of the virus, however, was not limited to this. It also led to numerous indirect effects, especially on mental health.
Various pieces of research have analysed the psychological impact of the pandemic on the population, and new studies have focused their attention on the younger generations. My generation. And the results are worrying. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many of my friends and a lot of young people – some told me that they are deeply anxious, have started self-harming, are having panic attacks, or are losing motivation and hope for the future.
The pandemic has caused a general worsening of the mental health of boys and girls, with drastic consequences for all people between 12 and 25 years: those who had no problems before had to face phases of loss and discomfort due to the limitations of sociability; for those who were already in a critical condition, the chances of asking for support have decreased.
A research, published on Scientific Reports, show the trends in lifestyles and mental health of university students one year after the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic. Despite the availability of vaccines and the reduction of social restrictions, there was only a slight improvement in mental health from the negative peak recorded during the first wave. For example, in the spring of 2021, physical activity was still much lower than that observed among similar cohorts of students before the pandemic (2019) and the incidence of depressive symptoms in this population remains well above pre-pandemic levels. One in four teenagers have symptoms of Covid-related depression, and according to the numbers, in two years the cases have doubled. A situation that could unfortunately have negative consequences in the long term: it has in fact been shown that having depression during childhood and adolescence is associated with adults experiencing worse physical and mental health, and greater difficulties in relationships and in life. This is especially true for those who have persistently suffered from depressive symptoms: being constantly 'undertone', especially during adolescence, has more negative repercussions than a single depressive episode, if this is then resolved.
These data are also supported by an extensive analysis published in Jama Pediatrics, which included 29 studies conducted on over 80,000 young people. According to the research, one in five youngsters have signs of an anxiety disorder, 46% of them report having less motivation to do activities they usually enjoyed and 43% feel pessimistic about the future.
In the silence and disinterest, especially from the institutions, the mental health balance of young people has never been so at risk. The pandemic, which has changed the course of life for everyone, has led to the explosion of discomfort at all levels for our fellow friends. Deep cuts on the arms, anguished night escapes from home, anorexia, suicide attempts, spasmodic drug use. But also violence, anger, aggression. Anxiety and depression. Apathy and loneliness.
We see damage on a psychological level every day. It is what I call the soul’s scars. The only way we can help these people heal their scars is by making them feel our presence. Always. It is important for them to know that there is and will always be room to be heard and understood. It is important for them to know that there is and will always be someone by their side. We are the Covid generation, the forgotten one, but that doesn't mean we have to forget about each other.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity
Written by Paige Trimbly