Theme: Mental Health of the young NEETs as a result of the stress and isolation during COVID-19 pandemic
Recent research report that after COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and despite the activation of social safety nets, the employment rate has decreased all over Europe, but in Italy it has fallen more than the average, especially for what concerns women. According to the Eurostat data (1), youth employment rate has fallen from 45% of 2019 to 42.4%, with the youth unemployment rate which displays an increase from 31.2% to 31.8% for women. Figures are sobering if we consider the NEETs related ones. NEETs rate in Italy has risen from 22.2% in 2019 to 23.3% in 2020, when “disposable” people, ready to work but who are not actually searching for a job, are more than 3 million.
According to recent research from “Osservatorio Giovani”, even when the work opportunities are available, it is usually unsettled and volatile, and it contributes to generate a feeling of pessimism and anxiety at young people’s future. After the COVID-19 crisis the 41% of the interviewed under 35 NEETs, declared that it has postponed the job search, and the 33.8% stated that it has abandoned it (with the concrete risk of slipping into the spiral of despair and decommitment), while the 60% consider the health crisis as a factor which could negatively impact their plans.
COVID-19 had important effects on the economy and the access to the labor market, especially for young people. But we are witnessing sever direct impacts on people’s health, with almost 140.000 deaths in Italy, and more than 5.5 million in the world since the start of the pandemic (2). Its negative impact had also many indirect and side effects: in fact, COVID-19 has deep consequences on mental health of young people, especially on the most vulnerable ones. According to a recent analysis published on “Scientific Reports” (3), “large disruptions to physical activity, sleep, time use and mental health among young adults at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020” have been reported, and after more than a year of pandemic, even if the vaccines began to roll out, deaths declined, and restrictions and physical distancing measures eased, “persistent impacts of the pandemic on physical activity and mental health are shown in the research sample”, with “almost half of participants were at risk of clinical depression compared to a little over one-third prior to the pandemic”, an increase of more than 35%. Moreover, according to a recent article published on “El Mundo” (4) mental disorders claimed more lives of people under 50 in 2020 than the COVID-19.
Social and uncertain situation commonly experienced by vulnerable youth is generally related to mental health problems in young people, according to their occupational status. For this reason, when dealing with NEETs, being one of the most vulnerable groups which shows higher risk of depression and anxiety, difficulties related to social interactions, mood and external disorders, and when designing specific services addressed to this target, it is important to enforce a holistic approach. National authorities shall provide political guidelines to promote the introduction of a newly educational offer in line with the current and future needs of the labor market; on the other hand, youth organizations and youth serving agencies shall leverage on formal and non- formal educational methods, together with one-to-one after training support services (like coaching and mentoring). But it is key for them to be prepared to offer a wide range of services to address diverse needs of NEETs, and most of all, to build-up and strengthen a broader network, and to cooperate, and work alongside other professionals, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists, to provide a joined-up service, creating a circle of trust, and maximizing the effectiveness of the interventions dedicated to young NEETs.
(3) Barbieri, P.N., Giuntella, O., Saccardo, S. et al. Lifestyle and mental health 1 year into COVID-19. Sci Rep 11, 23349 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-02702-4
Ferraro Benedetta, and Solivo Matteo Microfinanza Srl, January 2022