Covid-19 - the fallout for young people

Torbay teacher Valerie Bailey, an expert on mental health issues especially among the youth

Torbay teacher Valerie Bailey, an expert on mental health issues especially among the youth - Credit: Archant

Last week, we were able to consider the different options, within our reach, to support young people's psychological state after the impact of isolation due to lockdown.

At Torquay Boys� Grammar School, it has been decided to weave �resilience� in and around the school�

At Torquay Boys� Grammar School, it has been decided to weave �resilience� in and around the school�s pastoral policy - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It only takes to be with a young person for a few minutes to realise how much teenagers are in need of socialisation, some usually even prefer to engage with their peers via screens rather than engage with parents.

However, a strange occurrence has taken place which will surely be worthy of sociological research... they have missed seeing each other despite their social network contact.

With the plans for localised lockdowns in England, the 'brakes applied' to Leicester's deconfinement and the release of Torbay Council's Local Outbreak Management Plan to cope with such an event, there is no guarantee for our young people, neither for older folk that this summer will be one to remember.

Wary of isolation, tired of sharing the momentum of their education with remote teachers and foreign online platforms, what is their escape?

As other schools in the Bay, my school worked tirelessly to continue to educate and support students when they needed it.

Do the young people hold resources that we have not yet been able to discover, let alone teach, train, neither establish as we all ran for shelter in March?

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The day our country went in lockdown the school was meant to be holding a special day on mental health awareness, how to access support and, most importantly, learn to develop our own resilience.

More often than not, this word 'resilience' will be associated with power, strength and images such as those displayed in programmes comparable to Channel 4's SAS: Who Dares Wins.

We could not be further from the truth.

During Masters research, at TBGS, we provided students with the following definition to assist their choice when rating their own resilience:

• 'Resilience: It is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or bullying. It means 'bouncing back' from difficult experiences.'

• 'Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.'

We found that a measurable proportion of our local students wanted to learn how to tap into this attribute but rather unsure how to do so.

While children are not born resilient, some are born with a very high threshold for tolerating distress. These children are easy to comfort. They tolerate hunger, noise, transitions, and chaotic situations relatively well – they are already resilient.

Shortly after finishing this postgraduate work, my twin grandsons were born very prematurely and I remember watching them in their incubators, and thinking 'resilience, this is what will see these minuscule babies fight against all odds for their survival'; powerless as they were to even breathe for themselves, it was their resilience that saw them through.

On the other hand, some children are born very, very sensitive to any stimulation and are easily overwhelmed.

We also need to consider children having endured adverse childhood experiences, and how their resilience can have depleted by their experience of life. The wonderful news is the capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age.

At Torquay Boys' Grammar School, it has been decided to weave 'resilience' in and around the school's pastoral policy.

The brain and other biological systems are most adaptable in early life. Yet, while their development lays the foundation for a wide range of resilient behaviours, it is never too late to build resilience.

We are using a similar programme to that promoted by Dr Ragan Chatterjee in his literature: The 4-Pillar Planiii.

Readable and straightforward, our adaptation divides our students' lifestyle into four themes: Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep. Each pillar is sub-divided into five interventions, each designed to provide a small and realistic step towards better health, physical and mental.

As educators and parents, we can use this to address the needs of our students/children, whether inherently resilient or not as everyone benefits from this kind of plan.

Let's explore the nuts and bolts of this next week!