Young person’s takeover: ‘Exams should not have been more important than our mental health’

Plamena Martinova Marinova. Picture: MAP

Plamena Martinova Marinova. Picture: MAP - Credit: MAP

Plamena Martinova Marinova, a member of the South Norfolk Youth Advisory Board (YAB), said mental health should have been more of a priority during lockdown.

City College Norwich logo. Picture: CCN

City College Norwich logo. Picture: CCN - Credit: City College Norwich

During the pandemic most stable support networks that young people had were no longer available to them.

As a result there were a lot more people facing mental health problems but not knowing of ways to deal with them.

Usually when we are at school we are able to go to our student support officers, tutors and other teachers, in order to talk through the problems we may be facing. These staff would then help us by giving us advice or referring us to the appropriate next step.

However, due to lockdown it was almost impossible for that to continue and with schools solely focusing on adapting to a new form of education, mental health in young people wasn’t considered a priority.

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In addition, we no longer had our friends to support us as we were quarantined for an extended period of time - either not being able to meet anyone outside our households or when we were allowed, not having the transport and ways to see them. This left many of us at home on our own with little to no coping mechanisms left, resulting in the constant use of social media to pass time and talk to classmates, potentially further fuelling more anxiety and stress.

Some organisations did pick this up, however by the time they managed to get resources out to us, mental health was already visibly declining. And even still the resources and support that were made available by them were online and some young people were uncomfortable to speak about their problems with complete strangers.

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To add to the problem there was much stress and confusion surrounding tests results and not knowing how well people were doing because of online learning. This, followed by the sudden opening of schools, has had a staggering impact on mental health.

As a whole we were taken away from our support networks and told that we should prioritise our education over our health, as the grades we were getting were deemed to be far more important than the worries building in our heads.

- The impact of Covid on young people is the subject of a special online debate involving teenagers from the region. Sponsored by City College Norwich and in association with MAP, it will be hosted by EDP editor David Powles tonight (Tuesday, September 15) at 5pm. To watch or take part in the debate click the link here .

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