New research by the charity YoungMinds shows that many young people with mental health problems have struggled to cope during the winter lockdown, and fear that the pandemic will have a long-term negative impact on their lives.
The charity carried out a survey  with 2,438 young people aged 13-25 who have a history of mental health needs , during the third period of national lockdown, when schools, colleges and universities were closed to most students. The research shows that many are struggling with isolation, a loss of faith in their prospects for the future and heavy academic pressure for those who are learning from home.
The results reveal that:
- 75% of respondents agreed that they have found the current lockdown harder to cope with than the previous ones including 44% who said it said it was much harder. (14% said it was easier, 11% said it was the same).
- 67% believed that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health. This includes young people who had been bereaved or undergone traumatic experiences during the pandemic, who were concerned about whether friendships would recover, or who were worried about the loss of education or their prospects of finding work. (19% neither agreed nor disagreed, 14% disagreed).
- 79% of respondents agreed that their mental health would start to improve when most restrictions were lifted, but some expressed caution about restrictions being lifted too quickly and the prospect of future lockdowns.
When asked what the main pressures were during the current lockdown, respondents mostly spoke of loneliness and isolation, concerns about school, college or university work and a breakdown in routine. Many young people also expressed fears about the future, and although some were optimistic about the vaccine rollout, others were concerned that easing restrictions too soon could lead to further restrictions in the future.
1,817 of the respondents said that they felt they have needed mental health support since the beginning of the pandemic. Among these, 54% said that they have received some form of support (e.g. through NHS mental health services; school or university counsellors; helplines; charities). 22% said they have needed support but not looked for it, often because of stigma, concerns about being a burden on the NHS during the pandemic, or uncertainty about where to turn.
A further 24% said that they had looked for support but not accessed it – often because of challenges accessing support remotely rather than face-to-face, particularly if they were concerned about privacy at home. Others had experienced long waiting times, or fallen in the gaps between different services.
Among respondents who were at school or college, almost half (49%) did not think that their school was focusing more on wellbeing and mental health than usual, while only 55% said that there was a counsellor or mental health support team available in their school.