Experiences and testimonials of Niits – clients of youth home “Hidden Likes”

The registration of the first cases of the coronavirus infection and the subsequent dramatic increase in the number of patients proved to be a considerable challenge for the public health and medical communities, necessitating the adoption of drastic health measures to minimize the risks, impact and spread of the disease. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has created an unprecedented situation that has changed the daily rhythm of life, limiting freedom of movement. Although more than a year has passed since the lifting of restrictions and introduced measures, the impact of the pandemic is far from over, especially for vulnerable youth, part of the project “Life Investment is the Key to Employment,” /LIKE/.

The measures and restrictions that governments have taken concerning the health crisis and the prevention of its spread have been necessary to preserve the lives of many people around the world. Still, at the same time they have created several risks to their mental health. Concerns and fear for one’s health and that of family and loved ones, the loss of the established daily routine and the inability to follow the usual activities, as well as the limitation of social contacts, have left a deep imprint on the mental health of societies around the world. However, the situation has made it even more difficult for all those young people with pre-existing mental health issues, such as our clients.

Family health concerns

Much of the online media, radio and television, magazines and newspapers portrayed young people as not respecting the measures and restrictions that governments have taken about the health crisis. This resulted in them being perceived as the main culprit in the spread of the disease. The thought that they could be potentially dangerous for the health of their family created deep anxiety and fear in some of the young people.

This is also the story of one of the young NEETs in the “Hidden Likes” house, the 23-year-old D.I., who lost his father as a result of a long illness. The loss of a family member has left a deep imprint on his psyche and made him face the difficult struggle of inconsolable pain and shock. For 3 long years, he has been trying to overcome this traumatic event and deal with his sadness. At a time when he seemed to have managed to get his emotional problems under control, the COVID-19 pandemic reawaken this old trauma of his. Danny become extremely anxious about his mother’s health and began to feel an overwhelming fear that he may lose her as well.

“I became really worried and scared for my parent’s health. I couldn’t stop thinking about the worst. It was so overwhelming. This affected my sleep as well.” – so D.I. summarizes his post-covid symptoms.

Loss of social contact and isolation

Friendships provide pleasant and stimulating experiences, strong and positive emotional support, acceptance and closeness. Maintaining a network of good friendships can have a big impact on the health and well-being of young people. Research conducted to investigate the effects and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people in Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy and Latvia shows that support from friends, sharing with them and being able to participate in activities with other young people are among their top priorities. The introduced social distancing measures undeniably succeeded in slowing the spread of the disease, but at the same time faced all the youth of the world with unforeseen long-term isolation, which deprived them of the vital necessity of shoeing and thus worsened their socio-psychological well-being.

Currently, The World Health Organization points out depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. One study found that up to 66% of patients suffering from depression rated the illness as highly disabling.

We will tell you the story of 20-year-old L.K., who joined the project “L.I.K.E.” “Investment in life is the key to employment” because she struggles with depression, which appeared during the pandemic and isolated her from the world, her loved ones and her family. L.K., who stayed at home, stopped appearing for exams and interrupted her education at one of the most prestigious European universities. After returning to Bulgaria, her parents brought her to “Hidden Likes” with a request for help. Through the psychological support provided to her at the Youth House, L.K. gradually emerged from her self-isolation, successfully counteracted social withdrawal, and acquired appropriate socialization mechanisms that helped her form new friendships. They became her coping mechanism for difficult emotions. Today L.K. is a student again but lives with the traumatic anxieties that a new pandemic or new isolation will return her to her previous state.

“At the time of the pandemic, I was neither studying nor working so the time spend with my friends was everything I had. The situation affected me unpleasantly because I lost touch with them. I felt lonely and depressed most of the time.“ – this is what L.K. shares today.




Fear and anxiety

Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, worry and severe distress were most strongly manifested in the first months of the crisis due to the wide media coverage of the spread of the virus, the number of people infected with the disease and the number of those who lost their fight against it. The emphasis on frequent hand washing and the risk of infection after touching objects and meeting people as part of the prevention of COVID-19 has led to the appearance of obsessive and intrusive thoughts in not a small number of young people. In those with a pre-existing mental disorder, it worsened the symptoms.

This is how the situation affected A.R., who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. She had already started attending the activities in the Youth House when, during the tightening of measures, she shared increasingly obsessive thoughts and efforts to control the compulsions that make her constantly wash and disinfect her hands.

“I used to spend most of the day washing and sanitizing my hands because I just couldn’t stop thinking of the possibility to get infected. I reached a point where I wasn’t able to get rid of these obsessive thoughts”.

The fight for her condition continues among the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists of the LIKE project. It is still difficult to be targeted for internships and jobs because of her worry that in a work environment, everyone will see her bruised hands and make fun of her for constantly going to the utility room to wash her hands for the hundredth time.

Life in a bubble

The prolonged social distancing measures, the lockdown, the inability to follow the daily routine combined with the closure of schools, universities and places where young people usually have the opportunity to meet their peers, has led to a feeling of despair and hopelessness, apathy and loss of initiative.

Another one of our cases tells how the long isolation affected the 25-year-old D.Z., who joined the project “L.I.K.E. “Investments in life are the key to employment” because of a lack of motivation for future realization and serious difficulties in integrating the labour market. D.Z. ended up with bipolar disorder unlocked during the pandemic. Indicative of Bipolar Disorder is the adverse impact it has on employment opportunities, quality of work performed, and presence at the workplace. A global study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that people with bipolar disorder miss an average of 17 days of work or other activities per year. According to the WHO, bipolar disorder is the 12th most common cause of moderate to severe disability worldwide. The steps that our client D.Z. and all attempts to find a job have stopped with the onset of the covid crisis. Treatment and psychological support, mentoring and guidance to build a stable daily routine helped D.Z. to effectively set goals, and with the support provided by our specialists – to follow them.

“With each day of the lockdown, I felt a stronger sense of hopelessness. I started losing interest ineverything and didn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.”

Collected and processed the information – Petya Atanasova, a psychologist at the LIKE project


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