The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on Irish young people.
Education, social lives, and personal development have been interrupted dramatically. As we continue to fight this virus, it’s important to stop and take stock of what’s happening to young people and consider what can be done to help.
We recently reached out to you on Instagram to ask how you’ve been personally affected by this pandemic. Here’s what you had to say.
The Impact of the Pandemic on Irish Young People
Many of you have missed out on major milestones this year
Not being able to sit your Leaving Cert exams doesn’t just make college applications and grades more complicated, it changes your experience of education. The Leaving Cert is built up to be your first significant challenge in life – a hurdle that you can get past with hard work and a cool head. Missing out on the opportunity to prove to yourself what you can do under pressure is a huge loss for the development of your confidence.
Receiving exam results and heading off to the debs marks your transition into adulthood, and many of you won’t get to do that this year. It’s ok to feel a bit robbed of these things, and sad about missing out. We all know health and safety is the priority right now, but that doesn’t mean those things didn’t matter.
There are financial consequences for young people too
The financial impact of the pandemic on Irish young people has also been immense.
According to the CSO, in June 2020 the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment was 45.4% for people aged between 15-24 years. For many young people this summer was their time to get their first job; allowing them to save up for something important like buying a car for work or college. A large number of students also rely on money from summer jobs to fund their spending money for college.
The lack of jobs going in cafés, bars and shops this year will have a major impact on the young, and the figures reflect this.
Cancelled driving tests have also been an issue
Getting on the road can be an important step in becoming independent. Learning to drive takes time and commitment, and when you finally pass your test and get your license, you’re rewarded with more freedom, more job opportunities, and more confidence in yourself. When tests were cancelled earlier this year, many young people’s lives were interrupted.
The RSA resumed driving tests on the 20th of July, but applicants should be aware that face masks have been made mandatory, among other protocols. You can download the information leaflet here.
A lot of you are nervous about returning to school and college
A lot of you are worried about going into sixth year and starting college in these strange circumstances. There’s no doubt that this year will bring different challenges, so it’s ok to be worried about this. Those of you going into sixth year and starting college are going through a unique experience that only you can understand, but your friends are in the same boat.
Staying in touch with each other and talking about what you’re going through is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to voice concerns about study with your parents and teachers too, they need to know how you’re feeling, even if they’ve never been through this themselves.
Information on the virus hasn’t been shared well with young people
Communicating how to stay safe during this time has been a major focus for the government, but unfortunately, there hasn’t been any real focus on information for young people.
Speaking to a special C0VID-19 government committee recently, youth representative Royanne McGregor highlighted the lack of information specifically for young people on the virus. Young people have different information needs to older populations, and they should be catered for. This is something we need to work on Ireland as we continue to fight the virus.
This pandemic has been hard on your mental health
Many of you shared that you’ve been feeling more depressed and anxious during this time, and that is completely understandable. As early as April this year, the number of people reaching out to SpunOut.ie about stress and anxiety had increased by 100%. It’s clear this pandemic will have mental health consequences- we’re simply not built to stay at home all day and stand back from each other all the time.
To help support people through this time, the HSE have launched a new 24/7 text service, where you can chat to someone for free. To avail of the service, text 50808.
The pandemic won’t last forever, but in the meantime, it’s important to be aware of how it’s affecting you and recognise that it’s normal to feel down a bit more than usual. Stay busy and keep in touch with your friends. Make plans to celebrate your milestones, get your driving license, and continue your education as safely as possible, and be kind to yourself along the way.
Thank you to everyone who wrote to us on Instagram about how the pandemic has affected you. We love hearing from you and sharing your stories.