The British Psychological Society (BPS) warns that failing to take action to provide psychological support for young people could have widespread, long-term implications for society, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bite into learning, training and employment opportunities.
Urgent interventions are needed to support the mental health and well-being of young people, the organisation argues, as it publishes new expert psychological guidance to help professionals support them into further learning, training or jobs. Evidence indicates that with appropriate support, it is possible for young people to make positive strides forward in a changing and challenging situation.
The BPS guidance offers professionals advice and resources about steps to take in the context of COVID-19, recognising some of the difficulties young people are facing and suggesting approaches to support their way forward.
There is a critical need to protect the mental health and wellbeing of a generation, with current figures showing young workers are most likely to have lost jobs due to the pandemic, and recent decisions about exam results creating distress, disappointment and, in some cases, lost opportunities.
Social inequalities, including the impact of poverty and ethnicity on outcomes for young people, have been brought into stark focus by the pandemic, leaving those from vulnerable communities at even further risk.
Previous recessions and economic downturns have demonstrated long-lasting effects on young people, including an increased likelihood of poor mental and physical health and higher levels of crime.
Janet Fraser, chair of the BPS’ Working Differently task group who produced the guidance, said: ‘At first glance, this paints a very bleak picture for our young people. However, we mustn’t lose sight of how exciting it is for most young people to take their next steps towards the future they envisaged for themselves, despite the challenging circumstances the ongoing pandemic has thrown their way. Going to university, accessing further education or entering the workplace is an important milestone for any young person.
‘Sadly, the current situation means many will feel that the odds of achieving their goals are stacked against them, affecting their mental health and well-being, both now and in the future.
‘That’s why it’s so important that now, more than ever, we take positive action to empower young people, work with them to support their ambitions, show them a way forward and help them overcome the barriers they face.’