This is the fifth and final part of a presentation by Mike Shaughnessy analyzing the impact the 2020s will have on youth and youth culture due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Previously we have looked at exhaustion, instability, loss of trust in authority and isolation as some of the effects Covid-19 is having on today’s youth. Now let’s look at another area of impact: mental health. This is a very significant concern because some of the mental health consequences of Covid-19 may remain hidden for a while before they manifest in sudden and serious ways.
Some mental health issues are acute. They are brought on suddenly by trauma: abuse, divorce, violence, etc. Others develop slowly, and Covid-19 has provided a two-year incubation period. All the effects we have looked at so far – exhaustion, instability, loss of relationship, isolation, and loneliness – aren’t necessarily acute in their onset. We can expect these issues to reveal themselves over time and to lead to mental health troubles among youth. Who will have mental health problems and when those problems will manifest themselves is difficult to predict.
The National Health Institute notes that children and youth are highly vulnerable to the impact of sustained stress and thus, their mental health after the pandemic warrants special consideration. Clinical studies of the mental health effects of Covid are just beginning, but already it has been noted that hospital admissions and prolonged hospital stays for youth with mental health issues are way up. Suspected suicide attempts have also increased.
The observations that follow are speculative but are consistent with what I have seen over the past 40 years in youth work.
- Suicide is often a delayed ramification of mental health problems: the idea of it brews in the mind and emotions for a while. I expect the suicide rate will be significantly higher by 2024.
- Long term anxiety also tends to increase silently.
- Mental health issues take a deeper hold and manifest as behavioral changes at home or in school. Students may have a reduced ability to concentrate. They may volunteer less in class or be uninterested in relating to others. More distraction, aggression, withdrawal, depression, bullying, and tardiness may also be displayed.
What can a grandparent do?
To help directly, spend time with your grandchildren individually, whether in person or through digital means. Engage in conversations that will encourage them and that will help them connect to you. Aim to make them feel valued and to stimulate hope for their future.
To help your grandchildren indirectly, cover the cost for them to attend a Christian summer camp, or to participate in mission trips, adventure programs, vacation Bible school, etc. When you finance experiences like these for your grandchildren, you are helping others help them.
You may not be a mental health expert, but you DO know how to love. That can make all the difference for your grandchild.
For Discussion: Do you see anything of concern regarding any of your grandchildren?
For Action: Plan a one-on-one outing together – just you and your grandchild. The first step is to simply be there for them.
Mike Shaughnessy is the Founder of Grandly and lives in Lansing, Michigan.
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