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COVID pandemic: Youth team responds to increased support needs as more young people struggle to cope

With schools closing for a second time as part of tighter restrictions during this critical phase of the COVID pandemic, Kirsten Walker, SHA Youth Service Manager, looks at the impact on children and young people, and why the work of the youth service is increasingly vital during these challenging times.   

“SHA’s youth service staff are frequently overawed by how resilient and capable our young people are. Although they face many difficulties in their day-to-day lives, including the more ‘typical’ young people issues, there are challenges which are more specific to growing up in families impacted by Huntington’s disease.” says Kirsten.

“Yet it never ceases to amaze us how the young people face things head on and find a solution, and this has never been more apparent than during the Covid-19 lockdown and continuing restrictions.  Whilst we have been unable to do face to face visits for most of this past nine months, our young people are being supported via phone and video calls and initially we were reassured by how well they were coping.

“However, as time goes on, we are now seeing a more negative impact and the team is reporting the need for more intensive support, in stark contrast to the earlier days of last year’s lockdown. For many of our young people, it is the growing pressure of managing issues and difficulties over an extended period of time which are starting to become more contentious. There is a real concern that the struggle to find solutions is – or will – have an impact on their mental health.

“As one young person told us:

We’re told that young people are carriers and tend to get milder symptoms of Covid-19, so it’s a worry that I’ll bring it into my house and make Mum ill. Her depression and anxiety are worse and swallowing is becoming an issue. After she started choking, all I wanted was to see someone face-to-face to talk about this. Later on, when I was able to have socially-distanced chat with my specialist youth advisor in the park, I felt as if everything I’d been keeping hold of for eight months spilled out in one go. I actually didn’t realise how much I was struggling until I saw that familiar face in person.’ 

“The experience of this young person, and of others, reinforces our determination to be here for each and every one of our young people. It may not be possible to meet face-to-face right now in this world of Zoom and social distancing, but that doesn’t stop us reaching out, strengthening relationships, and providing the vital support they need.”

To find out more about how SHAYP, our youth support service, visit https://hdscotland.org/shayp/

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