Eight months into the Covid-19 pandemic Ossory Youth are seeing and hearing first-hand some of the ways young people’s mental health and wellbeing are impacted.
Growing numbers of young people are struggling with anxiety and fear that life may never fully return to ‘normal’ but staff and volunteers are also seeing altruism and generosity as young people support each other and their family members at home.
“As we are living through our first pandemic in the digital age, where the internet has made it possible for school work to be completed online, youth groups took place over zoom during lockdown but it also has a flip side, it has made it possible to withdraw from the outside world, which can lead to further isolation and anxiety,” explains youth worker, Eilis Walklett.
“Adolescents have different developmental needs than adults. Teenagers are at the stage in life when they are very invested in social connections and in separating from their parents.
“Covid-19 social distancing requirements have a different emotional impact on them than on adults. Depending on their age and developmental stage, some adolescents may have a hard time understanding what the pandemic really means and how it impacts their world. We have worked safely with young people through online forms for the initial lockdown and since have met in groups adhering to government guidelines and regulations for numbers and distance alongside adhering to all other policies to ensure it is a safe environment for everyone. For some young people self-isolating and social distancing was a bad habit they had worked really hard to get out of. Now being asked to do it and being told it’s the right thing to do can be very confusing.”
At Ossory Youth there are various groups that young people can become involved in from sixth class right up to the age of 25. Two services that support young people specifically with anxiety and isolation and feelings of not being able to cope are Head Hackers and Mentoring.
Head Hackers is a small group which provides a safe and nurturing space where young people dealing with anxiety and stress can meet and complete activities with likeminded peers on a weekly basis. It aims to encourage and promote participation.
The programme is developed by the young people and is often combined from many areas proven to support people cope and build up resilience using skills such as mindfulness, leadership, team building, creative ways to hear people’s voices, opinions, concerns and working through fun activities building confidence and fostering friendships along the way. A new group is being formed in October for 15-18 year olds so get in contact if this is something you or a young person you know would benefit from. The programme is expected to run for six to ten months.
Mentoring: A lot of people have heard about the “One Good Adult”. It has been shown that the presence of one good adult in a young person’s life has a positive influence on their mental health. Be it a parent, mentor, teacher, football coach or school bus driver, we all have a role in supporting the young people around us. As part of the Mentoring Programme that is run in Ossory Youth we have seen first-hand the impact the ‘One Good Adult’ can have on a young person’s life.
When a young person is struggling to cope with an issue, what can we do to help? That was the question Ossory Youth asked in 2012 and found that young people were looking for an individual and supportive space to work things out. As an organisation Ossory Youth wanted to provide another individual support that is different to the traditional counselling. Mentoring as an approach has been widely used in youth organisations to give young people a chance to develop a relationship with an adult, separate from parents and teachers, who is simply just there to listen and offer friendly and supportive advice.
Since setting up the mentoring programme it has provided support and guidance to over thirty young people on a one to one basis. This support was only possible by the dedication and commitment of adult volunteers throughout the years, who gave up an hour a week to provide a friendly listening ear to a young person trying to keep up with modern adolescent life.
Ossory Youth are currently recruiting mentors and would love to hear from adults who have an interest in the area and some time to give weekly. For more info on Head Hackers or the Mentoring project please contact Eilis Walklett in Ossory on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0879442112.
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