The pandemic has negatively impacted mental health worldwide.
Though very few were spared, children and young people, in particular, bore the brunt of this. Many were forced to endure physical, social, and mental hardships at a very tender age; ill-equipped to deal with the level of stress, anxiety, and insecurity that grew to new proportions.
In response to growing mental health concerns, Teen Action began a program of 1:1 psychotherapy and mentoring for young women in September 2020, supported by a grant from the BBC Children In Need Next Steps program. Through the program, we’ve contributed to a positive shift in young people’s mental health, something which we wish to build on as we move into the recovery phase. With the help of our community of supporters and match funding from the DCMS during The Big Give’s Women and Girls Match Fund Campaign, we look forward to continuing our mental health support through 2022-23, supporting another 80 young women, as shown below.
S is 17 years old, the eldest in a family of 9 where both parents are unemployed, and poverty has been a lifelong challenge.
As the eldest, she shoulders a lot of responsibility and has been thrust into an adult role from a young age, caring for siblings and doing a big share of household chores.
She always had challenges with anxiety, but as this was manageable it was never addressed, and she pressed on despite her challenges.
With the onset of Covid, it was evident that S’s struggles had increased. With all the children home, S had to assume even more responsibilities, looking after her siblings, supporting them with their home learning, whilst trying to keep pace with her studies too, and the growing amount of housework. It was evident that the situation was taking a big toll on her mental health as she failed to answer the phone the first 3 times our youth worker tried to contact her, despite leaving countless messages.
When the youth worker finally reached her on the fourth try, she apologised for not answering or returning the calls, saying, “I am extremely busy and don’t really have any time for myself”. We were able to hear from her about her family’s financial struggles and put her on our list for food packs, as well as referring her to a larger local food provision charity that provided surplus food to large families during the pandemic.
At the time we were just launching our psychotherapy support, and the youth worker tentatively asked her if she would like to partake in a few sessions so that she can work through some of the hardships she is facing. S responded that “I would love to but I have other responsibilities now.”
The youth worker discussed this with Teen Action’s director who suggested that we find someone to offset some of S’s work so that she can take some time to help herself. We reached out to a local organisation, Bikur Cholim, which provides support to families who are struggling. Once restrictions eased, they sent a family assistant once weekly to S’s home for 2 hours so that she can take some time for herself and receive the much-needed psychotherapy support.
S attended in total 9 sessions with the psychotherapist, reporting huge improvements in mental health, including an 11 point difference on standardised PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scales.
More recently, we encouraged S to join our Innate Health group program, which builds personal resilience through putting mind over matter. She thoroughly enjoyed the provision which she said “went really well with the 1:1s (psychotherapy)”.
We have also heard back from her teachers that S is more focussed and doing well in her studies, reflecting on the importance of mental health support in the greater picture of each individual, including how it affects personal development, learning outcomes, and general performance.