Tips to support young people with the loneliness of Lockdown or Shielding
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in drastic measures, including school closures, social distancing and home quarantine.
Although social isolation isn’t the same as loneliness, we know from research that there’s a well-established link between loneliness and potential mental health problems.
This is reflected in several recent studies which are starting to highlight how social isolation increases the risk of low mood and possible anxiety both during and after enforced isolation for many young people. This finding is perhaps not surprising given the impact for many teenagers of not seeing friends, not accessing support from educational professionals and the feelings of frustration and loss resulting from abrupt endings, cancelled GCSEs and A levels and uncertainties related to their futures.
So, what can we do to promote mental wellbeing during such an emotionally challenging time? Well, there are some well-established practical tools and strategies that may be helpful. These include the following:
First and foremost, it’s helpful to validate young peoples’ experience that it’s okay not to feel okay. The experience of lockdown and shielding is not normal and it’s not normal to be physically apart from friends in this way.
Help young people to maintain the structure, quality and quantity of their social networks
Encourage a strong sense of belonging within the family and the wider community. Feeling part of a group or network is a priority.
Weigh-up the relative risks and benefits of social media and networking. Accessing virtual social contacts may be more important than ever for young people.
Identify alternative enjoyable and valuable activities to build structure and purpose
Use digital interventions which can assist young people in identifying and modifying unhelpful thinking and changing their behaviour. Some computerized programmes/apps such as Mood Gym, SPARX and Think, Feel, Do have been evaluated in research studies and have demonstrated small but positive effects on mental wellbeing.