'It was hard even getting out of bed': The reality of lockdown for students and their mental health

  • Written by ITV Wales Journalist Zaynub Akbar

The effects of the pandemic and lockdowns have been heavily felt by school pupils across Wales.

In addition to falling behind during crucial school years, many have also raised concerns over their mental health and wellbeing.

ITV's Wales This Week team visited Y Pant Comprehensive School in south Wales where one Year 11 student opened up about his experience.

When asked how he found the last couple of years, Elliot Peterson explained: "Being home was a dark time for me. Actually being able to even get up out of bed and logging on was really hard for me to do.

"In class, I can concentrate for a short period of time, but when I’m at home it’s kind of harder when I have all these distractions around me.

"Most of the time I had to sit in an empty room and just try to focus."

Students begin preparing for their summer exams, despite the uncertainty as to whether they will take place. Credit: PA

Like every GCSE student, Elliot now faces the stress of upcoming exams, but also feels as though he needs to make up for lost time.

"The time I’ve wasted during lockdown when I could have been learning, it’s like I have to catch up now. Because of my own personal issues, I haven’t actually been able to learn, that’s why I have to run through it all quickly to try and learn it now and get up to speed with everyone else."

As schools return to a little more normality, Elliot is staying positive and hopeful for the future.

"It’s been easing up as the months have gone on. Now, I’m pretty much comfortable being back here, knowing what I need to do, what I need to work on. It’s like having that fresh start again.

"Every time we come out of a lockdown, it’s like you need a fresh start to plan ahead."

Despite the difficulties, Elliot credits the school and support team for their help throughout the lockdowns and returning back to school.

"Miss Edwards [Wellbeing Officer], she’d call every week or twice a week to see how I was doing and stuff. So that was really helpful, because it was nice to know that there was someone still there if I needed to talk.

"It was nice that the school provided that and I think Miss Edwards did take that out of her own time to call me and check in on me."

The school's Wellbeing Officer, Kelly Edwards, described how challenging her role became when the switch to online learning was made.

"Over the phone, trying to encourage these students to engage online, trying to get them to feel positive on the other end of the phone, was very hard."

Since children have returned to school, she says there's been a big increase in the number needing her support.

"The referrals have gone up. Children of all abilities are coming to see me. They’re struggling massively with their wellbeing. A lot more anxiety, a lot of children who I’ve seen who were really outgoing have now become very quiet and withdrawn."

"Because these children have not only lost out with school, it’s the social aspect of it with their friendship groups."

You can watch the full Wales This Week programme, which focuses on the impact of lockdown on education in Wales, at 7:30pm on Tuesday 15th February 2022.

If you're struggling with your mental health, you can reach out to Young Minds for support. If you need urgent help, you can call Samaritans for free on 116 123.