Young people urged to 'find purpose' during lockdown to aid mental health

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Abigail Bracken

Many young people are having a tough time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Exams they have been working towards for years have been cancelled, and for those that are changing schools or moving to university, they may not have the chance to say goodbye to their friends.

And now they've been in lockdown with their families for eight weeks.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, young people are being urged to find themselves a purpose during lockdown.

One of them is Claire Holloway from Hampshire, who's been taking up lots of saxophone practice during the lockdown. The GCSEs that should have been taking up her time are no longer going ahead as planned.

At first it was really hard because it felt a bit purposeless, because we were ramping up and up the work that we were doing, and we finished our last mocks two days before lockdown. It was really hard at the beginning because it felt like we didn't have a purpose any more."

Claire Holloway
Ewan Stewart from Chandlers Ford

This lack of purpose is widespread among teenagers who have missed out on exams, according to University of Southampton researchers from LifeLab.

They have been studying teenagers' response to the lockdown, like Ewan Stewart from Chandlers Ford.

He says: "It's not just us, it's older people we have to look out for, because like even if we get it, it's not necessarily bad, but if we give it to older people or your parents or something, then that contributes to how it spreads."

LifeLab, which normally brings teenagers in to its base at University Hospital Southampton, is now giving advice online.

Across all the young people we've been chatting to, actually they've been amazingly resilient and coping extremely well with the situation they're put in. But I think they themselves they identify that there are issues that are challenging for them; being away from friends. As a teenager, that's a time when your friends are so important to you, so being shut down in your house with your family can put a lot of stress on families."

Dr Kath Woods-Townsend, LifeLab

An expert in adolescence from Oxford says that young people, along with feeling stressed, may also feel let down.

Clinical psychologist, Dr John Coleman, says: "They may feel that something very important has been taken away from them, that all the things that they had hoped for particularly in the summer are not going to happen, they are going to lose out, there's a sense of loss and being let down."

The Eggtooth Project, library pictures Credit: ITV Meridian

In Sussex, The Eggtooth Project, which provides music therapy and outdoor therapies in Hastings, is now also giving support online to young people.

Director and Eggtooth Founder, Laura Clark, says some may not see mental health as a top priority.

They're thinking about being connected with their families and their friends and their school friends, and that their mental health is not perhaps a priority or not something they are treating as a priority. But we really feel it is the absolute right time to start thinking about how can I look after my wellbeing for the long term because I think, this could go on for quite some time."

Laura Clark, The Eggtooth Project
Izzy Withers from Heathfield

Izzy Withers from Heathfield who suffers with anxiety, performed her first gig through an Eggtooth Project.

The charity has continued to support her in recent weeks.

Sometimes it's good if I needed to talk to anyone else, to know that they are there, and that they actually really care, so they will try to help the best way they can, and also, the way it's not just talking therapies, that there are activities as well."

Izzy Withers, aged 14