‘Not out of the woods’: Lockdown fatigue takes toll on high school students
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Nathan Gunn started year 12 at Eltham High expecting to have one of the most amazing times of his life.
Instead, 2020 was a year of isolation, of numbing lockdowns, of cancelled formals and graduations and schoolies trips, and uncertainty around the timing of exams.
“It definitely put a strain on my mental health,” he said.
Nathan Gunn, who was in year 12 last year, says the pandemic put a strain on his mental health.Credit:Jason South
“I think the fact you’re isolated but also just the fact that it was such an unknown. The biggest thing for me was not being able to be around the people I love, who’re able to help me through times that, even before COVID, would be pretty challenging.”
In March Mr Gunn lost a friend to suicide. COVID-19 restrictions had eased but he believes it was partly the ongoing impact of last year’s lockdown.
“I’ve noticed over the last couple of months so many of my friends are struggling and that just gets reignited even more when lockdowns are in place.
“It’s like this lockdown fatigue. I am so, so tired of this. I want it to end.”
Mission Australia surveyed more than 25,000 people aged between 15 and 19 nationally in 2020, 1650 of whom said COVID-19, or dealing with the pandemic’s impact on their life, was their greatest concern.
Young people in Victoria in their final years of school were most likely to report COVID-19 concerns, with changes to schooling often leading to disruption and feelings of worry and stress.
“In these contexts, mental wellbeing declined and usual supports, particularly among young people residing in Victoria, were not accessible in usual formats because of restrictions on interpersonal interactions,” said Mission Australia’s Young Voices of the Pandemic report, released on Wednesday.
Nationally, four in 10 (41.1 per cent) respondents who said COVID-19 affected their education were 17 years old, indicating those in their senior years of school were severely impacted.
“These findings reinforce that many young people in Australia completing their final years of school during COVID-19 restrictions may need extra support to achieve their goals,” said Mission Australia chief executive James Toomey.
More than two-thirds of those reporting mental health concerns due to COVID-19 were young females (68.9 per cent compared with 23.9 per cent of males).
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Mr Toomey said. “The pandemic is still in play. With lockdowns and tighter restrictions recently triggered in response to COVID-19, we must take heed of what young people told us about their experiences and solutions in 2020.”
The young people Mission Australia surveyed came up with a range of solutions, including more services and resources to support mental wellbeing – through schools and outreach programs – and extra support for students completing final years of school during COVID-19 restrictions.
Mr Gunn said he was fortunate to have a senior school co-ordinator who took him under her wing. “It really really helped, she’d call me a couple of times a week, at whatever time,” he said.
He feels for this year’s grade 12s, with the General Achievement Test in Victoria already postponed until August 12.
Mr Gunn said the uncertainty of the timing of last year’s exams and how they would be conducted had made studying for them difficult.
“I really hope that they’ll be able to work towards certainty and some timelines this year,” he said. “I have quite a few friends in year 12 and I feel so bad for them, because I had hoped that they’d be able to have the year that we couldn’t.
“They went through it last year in year 11, so for them it’s quite possibly even worse because it’s two of their last years of high school that have been thrown into pieces.”
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