What have we learned for the mental health of young people during the Covid-19 pandemic? Research testimonies from the YOUTHShare project

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a multifaceted impact on the daily lives of people of all ages. But how has the pandemic specifically affected the lives of young people? What has been the impact on their mental health? The YOUTHShare project has been working on these questions for a long time, by organizing multiple interviews, focus groups, trainings and apprenticeships with young people across the European South. Here we present some representative testimonies from the YOUTHShare project’s research subjects:

A male, aged 27, from Greece, who was unemployed and a master’s student during the time of the research, claimed that the pandemic changed his life in a bad way. As a social person himself, who loves meeting people from other backgrounds, he suddenly found himself avoiding being in touch with other people: “I was really looking forward to meeting people again in person, after all these restrictive measures were over. But, when I started interacting with others again I was starting to feel very nervous around them, to the point where I would prefer to constantly look at my phone’s screen, rather than people’s eyes.”. When it came to his feelings during the pandemic he said: “I feel like I’ve lost myself and who I used to be (before the pandemic), in terms of creativity and willing of discovering new things”. When it comes to employment, he said that he managed to find a job at a hotel for the summer season and that finally made him feel independent. However, this job was over by the end of October, and he did not manage to find another job ever since. That brought back the feeling of stress and precarity he used to have during the pandemic. When asked about the future he said that he was feeling discouraged: “I have no idea as to what the future will bring, however all I can say is that I am really worried about it, because I feel that everything is so unstable and unsure. I am afraid that no matter what I do, it won’t help me make my future better.”

A female, aged 28, also Greek, who was employed during the time of the research, claimed that the pandemic has had a significant impact on her mental health also. She was social but she also enjoyed being alone. However, the pandemic made her reconsider: “When the pandemic first occurred, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to relax and make plans for the future. However, as time went on, I realized that I was missing contact with other people more and more”. When asked how she felt during the pandemic, she said: “I was afraid that I would lose opportunities for self-growth, personal and professional opportunities. Therefore, feelings of anxiety and insecurity began to increase, thus worsening my mental health. Worst of all, I was afraid to express my feelings, which also contributed to this situation”. When it came to employment, she said: “When the pandemic started, I was unemployed. The pandemic increased my stress levels, as the chances of me finding a job were decreasing. I was also feeling uncertain about the future in general, and I did not even know what to do to turn things around. Fortunately, I was able to work first as an apprentice and then as an employee, a few months later.” When asked about the future, she explained: “The pandemic undoubtedly took its toll on my mental health and affected my visions for the future. But as time went on and I finally started talking about my concerns, I realized that the pandemic was a pretty tough obstacle for all of humanity to face. Then, I realized that difficulties will come and go, and what matters in this case is that we must stay strong and keep dreaming and fighting for the things that we want. This thought turned things around and finally made me feel ambitious about the future.”

Reports of health issues following the Covid-19 pandemic are growing in volume. Although the YOUTHShare program focuses on employment issues, health issues continue to be a focus. This shows the magnitude of the problem and the need for activation at both staff and institutional level.

Anna Saroukou,
Communication Manager of the YOUTHShare project


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