Christmas is not an easy time of year for many, but coupled with the restrictions of Christmas 2020, this December has been far from festive for a lot of people.
For young people in Ireland, this stress has been no less profound, with a survey conducted by the Irish Examiner and Spunout.ie finding 34 per cent of young people said they would need mental health support after the Covid crisis.
CEO of Spunout.ie Ian Power believes this time of year is difficult for young people for a range of reasons, aside from Covid, and the reintroduction of Level 5 restrictions will have done little to put their minds at ease over the last few weeks.
“This time of year is difficult, much more than other years. Home for some young people may not be a safe of happy place to be, while it can also be quite difficult for people who are living with eating disorders or alcohol issues.
“When restrictions are brought in, young people have a sense of a lack of control, and restlessness is definitely one of the things that we see,” says Ian.
Post-Christmas exams and simply affording Christmas are among the issues Spunout.ie hear from young people each year, but this year the added extras of missing loved ones, losing part-time jobs and being cut-off from their friends will jump right to the top of their worries.
Although we have all felt the sting of limiting our contacts and social interactions, Ian points out this is particularly difficult for young people who often rely so heavily on their friends as a support network.
“Young people are anxious about the whole situation and the virus itself, but also the consequences of what lockdown means — like being cut off from friends and your social circle, who are hugely import to you when you are young.
“Also, for young people who are in situations where they do not feel safe and for young LGBTI+ people, who rely hugely on the social community to validate their identity, that can be really challenging.”
The return to lockdown, or near lockdown measures will have caused a lot of anxiety for younger people, but Ian encourages those struggling to remember what aided them through the previous lockdowns.
“Music and getting outside for a walk were two of the big things people said they used to cope with the first lockdown, so think back and try to remember what helped you and try to employ those strategies again.
Connect with friends and people who make you feel happy.
“Connect with friends and people who make you feel happy. You might rather be in another place, but there are still ways to connect with friends,” says Ian.
Being mindful of getting a good night’s sleep is also a great way to improve your mood, says Ian, adding taking a step back from alcohol may be for the better.
“If you are finding things difficult, it’s a good idea to try and reduce alcohol intake because it’s a depressant, so it may help you feel better in the immediate to short-term, but it’s not going to make you feel better in the long-term.”
But sometimes a little extra help and support from others is needed, and in which case Ian says there are a number of places to turn to.
This time of year is when we take stock of the year that’s gone by, and we think about some of the things that have been affecting us.
“Talk about how you are feeling to family and friends if you feel comfortable, but if you want to talk to somebody who doesn’t know you, [Spunout.ie] have a 24-hour text line and our volunteers will be available all over the Christmas period.
“If you know how you have been feeling has been affecting you for a while, or if it’s affecting your everyday life, if might mean further, more structured support is needed, so take time to check out organisations like Turn2Me, Jigsaw, My Mind and Pieta House.
“This time of year is when we take stock of the year that’s gone by, and we think about some of the things that have been affecting us.
“It can be a renewed opportunity to go get that kind of support in the new year, so take the time to research those services and reach out to them.”
To speak to one of Spunout.ie’s volunteers via their 24-hour text line, text ‘SPUNOUT’ to 50808.