COVID-19 AND IT’S EFFECTS ON MENTAL HEALTH AND EDUCATION IN THE UK- part 8 of 8
FURTHER READING ON WELLBEING AND COVID-19
1) Link to data on the social impacts of COVID-19, including mental health and well-being. The discussions included before in this collection are isolated perspectives, but the spreadsheet accessible via this link shows trends over the whole period (of particular relevance here is Table 1). It reinforces the opinion that some of the negative effects on wellbeing have reduced over time, showing resilience and adaption to a ‘new normal’
2) This link shows that happiness and life satisfaction of people in the UK had been on a downward trend generally and anxiety had been on an upward trend generally when you compare statistics in the months January to March of previous years with 2020 and especially when you compare 2019 with 2020. This shows that deterioration in mental health may not be only due to lockdown.
3) This link is to a government report on changes in wellbeing due to COVID-19. It shows that sharp changes were observed in April but, as other reports have also seen, are recovering.
4) In the same vein as point (2), the Children’s Society ‘Good Childhood Report 2020’ shows that children’s wellbeing- both objective and subjective- had been on a downward trend in the UK for a while before COVID-19. It compares levels in 2009–10 with levels in subsequent years up to 2017–18. It then makes some comments about the further effect of COVID-19.
HOW DO WE RECOVER?
Humanity is resilient. There have been other global crises and even other pandemics. We will recover. Once you have the belief that things can change, the question is ‘how do we make that happen?’. Reports in this collection have all advocated for some policy or attitude change and I will attempt to sum them all up.
We need to be reaching out for help and connecting with others. This could be existing connections and services or new ones. We should be appreciative of what we have and never take things for granted again. We need to be helping each other and showing understanding and empathy. We need to be respecting social distancing and not deliberately spreading the virus. We need to take gradual steps in returning to a ‘new normal’ and remember to be kind to ourselves and others as we do so. It is OK not to be OK, but no-one should have to stay stuck in negativity.
The government should provide clear guidance and make considered decisions. They should not be expecting everything and everyone to hit the ground running after so long away. They should be investing in services to support people, especially those related to mental health and wellbeing. As a country, the UK should learn the lessons of ill-preparation for a global crisis and be better prepared for the next. Inequalities need to be tackled and the vulnerable need better support.
We need to be open to hearing the thoughts of a broad range of people, both old and young, rich and poor and of every ethnicity, postcode and orientation. This helps ensure that our perspective is an informed and balanced one and that decisions we make as individuals and as a society and nation reflect the needs of everyone. While this is particularly important for governments and decision-makers, the change starts with the individual. Thank you for reading the thoughts and comments of a 23-year-old female. I hope you will go on to do further reading to broaden your mind.
I’ll leave the final comments to
1) The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report (https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/good-childhood-report-2020) Pages 5 and 81 of the report (pages 3 and 41 of the PDF) have the Foreword and Overall comments. They sum up everything I’ve tried to examine here and also look to the future. If only governments and other institutions could be so reflective. While the comments are mainly on young people, their core message is relevant for all.
Take action and be determined. Connect, embrace failure, learn to feel comfortable in your own skin. Don’t write off young people (or anyone). Believe in them and listen to them. Don’t allow them to be failed by society. Use your voice. Create a better society that works for all. Examine thoroughly and learn the lessons. Ask why this is happening and what can be done.
Foreword by Mark Russell, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society
We publish our ninth Good Childhood Report as young people prepare for a school year like no other. For many, this will be their first time back, regularly, in the classroom for 6 months. Imagine how the young people in your own life must be feeling.
Earlier in the summer we reported on the cost of the Coronavirus crisis. We saw a marked increase in the numbers of children reporting low well-being, and 50% of parents told us they felt the Coronavirus would continue to have a negative impact on their children’s wellbeing in the year ahead.
I never fail to be amazed at young people’s resilience. In my conversations with the young people we support, many have told me they are nervous about what lies ahead. In spite of the challenges, I am confident that with our help the UK’s children and young people will navigate these tricky waters with grace, optimism and energy. They usually do.
But we should not just be relying on the optimism of our young to see this year through. Society must do more to support them. The cost of failure, even for one child, is too high.
The truth is that we have all been letting down our children for far too long. Since 2009, children’s happiness with their lives has been in decline. I am sad to say that the first Good Childhood Report of this new decade does not find this appalling trend has halted.
For the Good Childhood Report 2020, our research team has looked abroad to shed further light on how we are doing and the challenges we face. Compared to 23 European countries, by age 15 our young people are the least satisfied with their lives. They ranked lowest for having a sense of purpose in life. They have the second highest levels of sadness. What have we done that’s created a society in which 15 year olds feel this way? We should be ashamed. And we should be galvanised to change.
How can we ensure that The Good Childhood Report 2030 has a different story to tell? This report provides some clear priorities. We need to support our young people to build stronger friendships, to be less afraid of failure, and to feel comfortable in their own skin. Fundamentally though, society needs to change. High levels of inequality in the country and in our education system both seem to be contributing to our children’s comparatively poor well-being.
To turn things around, we must start listening to children and taking what they have to say seriously. Too often our society writes off young people. To do so is wrong. It also fails to engage with the challenges of modern childhood and put them right.
I can make you a promise. Over the next 10 years, The Children’s society will be doing everything it can to listen to young people and turn these trends around. These trends make us angry. They make us determined. They are the reason we all get out of bed in the morning. Please join us in rising to the challenge- supporter, campaigner, volunteer- we need you and your voice. Together we can and we must create a society built for all children.
Extracts from ‘Overall comment’- Most of the data drawn upon in this report reflects the well-being of children before the current Coronavirus pandemic. With continued reductions in children’s happiness with life as a whole and with friends, and a sustained dip in happiness with schoolthere are a number of key areas for focus… for policy attention.
It is important that in responding to the pandemic, we do not lose sight of the changes that had already occurred in children’s well-being. As difficult as it is, future research needs to try to unpick those fluctuations that are related to COVID-19 and those which reflect longer term patterns in children’s well-being.
While this report shows emerging patterns by demographic characteristics and other factors in children’s happiness with friends, more needs to be done to further understand what is leading children to be less happy, given what we know about the importance of children’s relationships and the impact that the pandemic has had on our connection with others.
International data at age 15 show children in the UK fairing less well than their European counterparts, and that the gap between genders is much greater here than in other countries. Effort is needed to further understand why children in the UK feel this way, why girls in particular score lower on these measures, and what lessons can be learned from other jurisdictions where children are more satisfied with their lives. The potential links identified with changes in poverty levels and fear of failure require further exploration- although it is interesting that they relate to areas where there have been changes in UK policy (eg. rising child poverty… changes to schooling…) specifically, in the last 10 years.
2) VeryWellMind’s advice on developing resilience (from (https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-resilience-2795059)
Fortunately, resilience is something that you can build both in yourself and in your children. Some of the important steps that you can take to become more resilient:
Reframe Your Thoughts
Resilient people are able to look at negative situations realistically, but in a way that doesn’t center on blame or brooding over what cannot be changed. Instead of viewing adversity as insurmountable, focus on looking for small ways that you can tackle the problem and make changes that will help. Focusing on the positive things you can do can help get you out of a negative mindset.
You can also use this approach to help children learn how to better cope with challenges. Encourage them to think about challenges in more positive, hopeful ways. This way, instead of getting stuck in a loop of negative emotions, kids can learn to see these events as opportunities to challenge themselves and develop new skills.
Having people you can trust and confide in is important for building resilience. Talking about the difficulties you are coping with doesn’t make them go away, but sharing with a friend or loved one can make you feel like you have someone in your corner. Discussing things with other people can also help you gain insight or even new ideas that might help you better manage the challenges you’re dealing with.
Focus on What You Can Control
When faced with a crisis or problem, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the things that feel far beyond your control. Instead of wishing there was some way you could go back in time or change things, try focusing only on the things that are in your control. Even when the situation seems dire, taking realistic steps to help improve the situation, however small these steps may be, can improve your sense of control and resilience.
A Word From Verywell
Resilience is an important ability and something that you can get better at with time. Start by practicing some resilience-building skills in your daily life. Developing a positive outlook, having a strong support system, and taking active steps to make things better can go a long way toward becoming more resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
3) Mind’s bank of information on well-being and everyday living