We are all aware that the teenage years can be challenging. Here are some great tips from the Kidspot website about how we can help our teenagers develop the skills and strengths they need to support good mental health.
Jigsaw provides a vital service supporting the mental health of young adults aged between 12 – 25 years old. They have a webchat facility providing 1:1 support – here are the details, reproduced from their website.
Jigsaw Live Chat is a new way to get support if you’re aged between 12 – 25 years-old. Our trained staff host 1:1 webchats, Monday-Friday from 1-5pm.
Login and talk about what’s on your mind or send us an email anytime.
We accept our final chats 30 minutes before chat closes. If you’d like to chat after this, you can send an email or log in at another time. Register to chat or email with us.
What do I need to know?
- What happens when I request a chat?
- How do I get the most out of my chat?
- What do I do if there is a technical difficulty during my session?
- Is the service confidential?
What happens when I request a chat?
When you request a chat, there will be a text box where you can tell us a little bit about your reason for your visit. We will ask you to fill out a brief questionnaire about how you are doing at the moment. At the start of your chat, our staff member will welcome you, introduce themselves and invite you to say a little more about what you’d like support with.
Can I be anonymous?
You need to register to use this service. When registering you will be asked to provide an email address, a username and some demographic information. You can be as anonymous as you choose. This means you don’t need to provide your first name if you prefer. You can also use an email address that doesn’t identify you (i.e. doesn’t contain your name).
Do I need a referral?
No, you can just log in whenever you like during opening hours. Or send us an email anytime.
How to get the most out of my chat?
Chats sessions will last approximately 40 minutes. To get the most out of your session, we recommend:
- Using a good internet connection if possible to minimise disruptions
- Having a think about what it is you most want help with. Your clinician will also help you with this in the session
- Staying focused on the chat and responding promptly
- Avoid multitasking or having multiple browser windows open
- If you need to step away from the chat, let us know.
How long will it take to get a response to an email?
We will respond to your email as soon as possible. We aim to respond within two days but there are times when it may take longer than this.
What if I am in crisis?
Jigsaw is not a crisis service. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, check out crisis support options.
What if I’m attending other mental health services?
Do let us now if you are already linked in with another support service, in particular any regular therapeutic sessions you might have. For example at Jigsaw, in HSE mental health services, student counselling services or another online service.
Having contact with multiple services, particularly if they are not working together can be unhelpful and confusing for you. If you are attending another service, please let us know and we can talk about the best next steps.
I’m looking for information on face to face services.
Find your local Jigsaw contact details here.
What do I do if there is a technical difficulty during my session?
If there is a problem with your internet connection:
Check your internet connection. If you are unable to reconnect, you can access a new chat when your connection is restored. Although it may not be with the same person, the person you speak to will be able to see the details of your previous chat so you can pick up where you left off.
If there is a problem with our internet connection:
If you do not hear from us within five minutes of the chat being disrupted, we will probably need time to resolve the issue. We will email you to let you know what has happened as soon as possible.
If there is a problem with the chat platform:
We will highlight on this page and will email you to let you know what has happened as soon as possible.
Is this service confidential?
The information that you share in chats and emails is confidential to the Jigsaw Live Chat team. We will not share information without your consent unless we are concerned that you or someone else is at risk of harm.
In such circumstances we may need to share your personal information with third parties such as an Garda Síochána, emergency services or Tusla, The Child and Family Agency to ensure that you or another person at risk gets the appropriate support.
In addition if we are concerned that you or another person is at risk of harm, we may ask you for more information, such as your full name, your address, or contact details for a next of kin who we can contact. It is up to you if you wish to provide this information.
Protecting your information
Jigsaw Live Chat provides confidential and preventative webchat and email services directly to young people. We are committed to doing this while also keeping your data safe.
The information here explains why we collect data, what data is collected, what we do with it, and what you can do to exercise your rights or to get more information.
What information do we collect?
Personal information is any information that can be used to identify you. For example, your name, date of birth, email address, IP address, as well as information relating to your health or personal circumstances.
We retain personal information that you provide, when you:
- register with us
- seek assistance and support, for example, by logging in, emailing us or engaging in a chat session
- otherwise give us personal information.
How do we use your information?
We use your information in the following ways:
- To give you the information and support you ask for and ensure that Jigsaw staff offer you the best possible service.
- For internal administrative purposes (like accounting and records), and to let you know about changes to our services or policies.
- To evaluate what we are doing and understand ways to improve support for young people. We may contact you directly about this. If we use your information in relation to evaluating our services, and for research and analysis, any information that could identify you will be removed.
- To look in to and respond to complaints, legal claims or other issues.
- If we need to use your information for other reasons, we will tell you about it and get your permission.
We keep your data in accordance with our data retention policy. We review our data retention periods for personal information on a regular basis.
Who do we share your information with?
When we collect your personal information we use strict procedures and security features to prevent unauthorised access. So that Jigsaw can keep your information safe, it is stored electronically by Microsoft Azure on a secure server. To help look after the Jigsaw Live Chat IT system, there are developers in MHI (New Zealand) who can see your information; they do not store or share your information.
We will not sell your details to any third parties.
If you need any more information about the way your personal data will be used, if you want to exercise your data rights, or if you are unhappy with the way we have handled your personal data you can get in touch with our Data Protection Officer:
Data Protection Officer
Jigsaw – The National Centre for Youth Mental Health
16 Westland Square
Telephone: 01 472 7010
Jigsaw is a registered charity, CHY 17439.
Changes to this policy
To see more about Jigsaw and the supports they offer click the link https://jigsawonline.ie/
We are finally becoming aware that we need to care for our mental health as much as for our physical health. Over these past months many people have experienced anxiety, feelings of loneliness, low mood and more. This is not unusual. If you would like support to deal with these or other mental health issues a new text support service is available. Just text 50808. Here is the press release from the recent launch of the service
A new text-based mental health service funded by the HSE has been launched. ‘50808’ is a first of its kind for Ireland, a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through mental health or emotional crisis. Doireann Garrihy launched the service via a Zoom event with Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health, Jim Daly, Minister for Mental Health and Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer HSE.
Since the service began its pilot in September last year, it has provided support to 3,801 people through 6,694 conversations. It is expected that ‘50808’ will support over 50,000 people each year once fully operational.
Of the almost four thousand people supported:
- 832 people were thinking about suicide
- 360 people were self-harming
- The top issues discussed were: Anxiety/stress (40%), Depression/sadness (32%), Relationships (29%), Isolation/loneliness (23%) and Suicide (18%)
- 80% of texters have been between the ages of 16 and 34
- 65% of texters were female, 24% male, 2% transgender and 2% non-binary
- 30% of texters identified as LGBTI+
- 35% of texters are living with a disability, an existing mental health condition, or other medical condition
- Reasons for texting: Didn’t have anyone else to talk to (50%), Wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know me (48%), More comfortable texting than talking (40%), Too embarrassed to talk on the phone or in-person (31%), Didn’t have access to a therapist (31%).
The service uses an artificial intelligence (AI) system to analyse a texter’s initial message, scanning keywords, phrases, and even emojis to determine the level of severity. The texters at most imminent risk are placed at the top of the queue.
50808 has performed over 100 “Active Rescues” since beginning in pilot phase in September 2019 in which the National Ambulance Service is contacted for a texter in need of emergency support.
The service allows trained Crisis Volunteers to volunteer from home. Crisis Volunteers complete a 30-hour training and have 24/7 supervision by full-time mental health professionals.
Simon Harris TD, Minister for Health, said:
“Many people particularly young people don’t feel comfortable making that call or reaching out for help. This is a service that will offer a lifeline to people of all ages. 50808 is free, anonymous and inclusive. It’s been an exceptionally difficult time for our country, and this service is needed more than ever. I have no doubt the launch of 50808 will save lives.”
Jim Daly TD, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, said:
“50808 has been in development for some time, and it couldn’t launch at a more important moment. The service’s trained Crisis Volunteers will help people through this current crisis and will continue to provide free, 24/7 support in the long term. This life-saving service is part of the government’s strategy to protect the mental health of all members of the public.”
Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer, HSE, said:
“The impact of this pandemic will be different for all of us and while not everyone will need mental health support, for those that do it’s important to have a variety of services that meet those needs. Picking up the phone and asking for help can appear daunting, but texting 50808 will connect you to a trained listening Crisis Volunteer. Parallel to this important service, the HSE, through our Psychosocial Response Project, is aligning the different levels of supports that are available online, by phone and text to improve accessibility to mental health resources for those who might be struggling at this time.”
Ian Power, CEO of 50808, said:
“We now have over 300 trained Crisis Volunteers providing free, anonymous support to people who are struggling with any issue, big or small. We’re also using technology to ensure we’re getting to the texters who need us most first and using data to understand our texter’s needs and improve the service. We’re excited to make the 50808 number famous so people who need us, know we’re here to listen.”
The Jigsaw website provides great well being and mental health support for young people and for their families. Sadly, some families are dealing with grief at the moment – because of Covid 19 or other causes – and it can cause added stress when we can’t come together to support each other as we would have done in the past. The article below is reproduced from the Jigsaw website and you can access the original here https://jigsawonline.ie/young-people/grief-and-loss-in-exceptional-times/
Grief and loss in exceptional times – Jigsaw Online
During the past few months so much has changed in our world. Certain things continue – people get sick, people die, people die suddenly. And sadly, many people have died of Covid-19.
But, everything feels quite different now, when the usual rituals and coming together are no longer available to us. There is no right way to feel, or to grieve the loss of someone we love. However, there might be some things we can do to ease the pain and strangeness a little. Of course, they will be different for everyone and it’s about finding your own way.
This can be especially difficult when someone we love is in hospital or a nursing home, and we are not allowed to visit. If they are well enough to talk on the phone or Facetime, then this can be a helpful way to connect.
You may prefer to remember the person as they were when they were well, and that’s OK too. Try writing a letter to express what you would like to say or what you didn’t get to say. This can feel supportive whether your loved one reads it or not.
Managing the funeral or service
Funerals and services are very different now; only attended by a few people. If you’re not able to go the service, then stay in touch with friends and family who are attending virtually. Remember, you are not alone.
When attending via live-stream, try to watch with friends and family. If this is not possible, connect with someone afterwards either on the phone or text.
It’s also OK not to watch, or to step away half way through if you prefer. You could think about setting up or attending a virtual family gathering afterwards. Come together to remember your loved one, exchange photos or play music that reminds you of them.
Other ways to remember
Some people find it helpful to create a memory box, either on your own or with family and friends. Gather photographs, objects, items that remind you of your loved one. Decorate your box.
If you have a garden space or even a pot on a windowsill, planting some flowers or a tree is a lovely way to honour of them. Many of the garden centres are opening up now, but you can also buy online, or ask neighbours or friends to help.
“It can help to gently name and acknowledge the feelings without judgement”
Allow your feelings
You are likely to feel a whole rush of different feelings at this time. These can include things like:
- feeling OK one moment and not the next
- moving from sad to confused to angry to happy in a few minutes
- feeling relief rather than grief
- loneliness, or preferring the privacy and quiet time you have just now
- physical feelings such as a heaviness in your chest or a churning in your stomach
- maybe you don’t feel that much at all.
It can sometimes help to gently name and acknowledge the feelings, without judgement and without moving too deeply into them. When names don’t come easily for a feeling, make up a word that works. Bleurgh, fuzzy, sparkly, numb – whatever word or nonsense word that works for you. Try and allow your experience, no matter what it is.
Use your senses
If you are experiencing strong feelings and struggling with grief, using your senses can help to ground you. Sometimes it can be helpful to ground through your hands and feet.
Walk in the back garden or in your bedroom in your bare feet. Steal some playdoh from your younger sibling and roll it in your hands.
Gather together a ‘soothe box’. Put in an item for each sense – something soft like a cosy blanket or jumper, a smell you like, a picture that calms you, and some music that you like. Take time for you. Wrap yourself up, with your favourite hot drink and listen to music.
>> Listen to Jigsaw clinician Leona talk through a grounding tool called ‘ACE’
Talk or don’t talk
Some days it might helpful to be connected in with others, and sometimes you might want to be alone. That’s OK. Just be careful of cutting yourself off completely. It can be good to find ways to connect with other people that don’t involve much talking. Watching movies or playing games together, either online or with people in your home.
Remember it’s OK to laugh and to have fun in moments, and that it’s actually quite healing. Talk to family and friends about your loved one who has died if that feels right. Writing down how you feel is good too, if you’re not ready to talk.
Take a look at ways to contact Jigsaw if you would prefer to talk to someone outside your network.
Do what helps
This is the time to do those things you enjoy and are able to do in your own home. For example:
- use a creative outlet that you find supportive, like playing an instrument
- play video games, or watch a favourite series or film
- do your best to eat well and rest well, even if you don’t feel like it
- being in nature can be very healing, so do try to get outside.
You might find comfort in returning to your study/work routine. Or perhaps concentration is difficult so give yourself permission to do nothing. Just let things settle as they are with no judgement.
>> Get some ideas from young people and Jigsaw clinicians about self-care during covid-19
Do you have teenagers who are keen to meet up with friends but worry that their friends may ignore social distancing advice? Linda, a Clinician with Jigsaw has some advice for Kayla, a young teenager who finds herself in that position.
Ask Jigsaw: Friends not social distancing
I met up with my friends today and it was a bit underwhelming. It was great to see them but it also made me very nervous. First of all there was 7 of us, but the thing that stressed me out the most was the lack of social distancing. A few of us tried to at the start, but it got so difficult especially when some friends kept trying to get close to me. This really annoyed me and when i confronted them they brushed it off and said ‘a sure we will all get it at some stage’.
I understand that some of them are not in tune with irish news and it could be down to innocent ignorance, but its impossible to convince them to even try. Some people in my family are at risk, so social distancing really matters for me.
At the same time, I get serious Fear Of Missing Out when it comes to passing on hanging out, so I dont know what to do now. Any ideas on what i should do?
Also Id like to say a massive thank you for doing all the work you guys do, it means so much as a young person to have a place like this to fall back on when i need support:)
Look at the plan for raising restrictions and have a think about what you can and can’t do with your friends.
LInda, the Jigsaw Clinician replies to Kayla:-
Firstly, thank you for your kind words about our service. It’s our aim to provide support for young people like you, so it means a lot to hear that you can rely on us.
It sounds like you’re in a tricky social situation and I’m sure that many of us will face similar situations, if not now then in the future.
Know your boundaries
As you’re aware, the current restrictions in place are for the safety and wellbeing of everyone. They are the guidelines we have to live by to protect ourselves and others. I can understand your frustration as your friends break these rules. Check with yourself about what you’re comfortable with. Look at the plan for raising restrictions and have a think about what you can and can’t do with your friends in advance so you can be clear about where your boundaries are. Remember, you can still keep in touch with out seeing people face to face if you decide to wait.
Agree in advance to challenge those who flout the guidelines, and to walk away if it continues.
Get others on board
Often in groups, we follow the lead of one or two people. When you are in the group it can be hard to be the one person who stands up and says something is wrong. Try speaking individually to a few of the people involved to highlight your concerns and the reasons why social distancing is important to you.
Using assertive communication, you can explain how you feel when people don’t stick to the guidelines. If possible a few of you can agree in advance to challenge those who flout the guidelines, and to walk away if it continues. It is easier to tackle if a few of you are united, rather than feeling you are the one being ‘awkward’.
It’s about respect
It’s not okay for our friends to put us, or our loved ones, in danger. When people break social distancing rules by coming too close – this is exactly what they are doing. Mutual respect is the foundation of friendships and something that we all deserve.
We need our friends now more than ever, and of course you will feel FOMO if you stop contact. Thankfully, if our friends follow social distancing rules, we can still hang out without harming anyone. Your friends should respect your choice and if they don’t, it could be worth considering meeting individual friends that do.
Linda, Jigsaw Clinician
If there is a young person in your family who has a question for Jigsaw they can contact them here https://jigsawonline.ie/young-people/live-group-chats/
Great support for the well being and mental health of young people and for their parents/guardians is available from Jigsaw https://jigsawonline.ie/
It is perfectly normal to be finding life stressful at the moment. We are living in extraordinary times and so it is really important to look after ourselves. Here are some good tips from the HSE website https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/covid-19/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html about minding our mental health.
Minding your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
Infectious disease pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19) can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.
How it might affect your mental health
The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus. Try to remember this when you feel worried.
Most people’s lives will change in some way over a period of days, weeks or months. But in time, it will pass.
You may notice some of the following:
- increased anxiety
- feeling stressed
- finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
- becoming irritable more easily
- feeling insecure or unsettled
- fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
- having trouble sleeping
- feeling helpless or a lack of control
- having irrational thoughts
If you are taking any prescription medications, make sure you have enough.
How to mind your mental health during this time
Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.
We also have guides on:
- Young people’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
- Older people’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
Stay informed but set limits for news and social media
The constant stream of social media updates and news reports about coronavirus could cause you to feel worried. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate facts from rumours. Use trustworthy and reliable sources to get your news.
Read up-to-date, factual information on coronavirus in Ireland here.
On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own. Too much time on social media may increase your worry and levels of anxiety. Consider limiting how much time you spend on social media.
If you find the coverage on coronavirus is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.
Keep up your healthy routines
Your routine may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.
It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing.
For example, you could try to:
- exercise regularly, especially walking but keep within 5 kilometres of your home
- keep regular sleep routines
- maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- avoid excess alcohol
- practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises
- read a book
- search for online exercise or yoga classes, concerts, religious services or guided tours
- improve your mood by doing something creative
Stay connected to others
During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.
If you need to restrict your movements or self-isolate, try to stay connected to people in other ways, for example:
- social media
- video calls
- phone calls
- text messages
Many video calling apps allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time.
Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don’t have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.
Try to anticipate distress and support each other
It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the outbreak.
Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health. If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.
Online and phone supports
Face-to-face services are limited at the moment because of the coronavirus outbreak. But some services are providing online and phone services.
Find mental health supports and services that can help during COVID-19 outbreak
If you are using mental health services for an existing mental health condition
If things get difficult, it can be helpful to have a plan to help you get through.
Things you can do:
- have a list of numbers of mental health service and relatives or friends you can call if you need support
- keep taking any medication and continue to fill your prescription with support from your GP or psychiatrist
- continue with any counselling or psychotherapy session you have
- limit your news intake and only use trusted sources of information
- practice relaxation techniques and breathing exercises
If your condition gets worse, contact your mental health team or GP.
If you have an intellectual disability
If you have an intellectual disability, you may feel more worried or sad because of coronavirus. Staying at home could be difficult for you. You could also be worried about your family or those close to you.
It is important to take care of yourself. Try to keep a routine, shower every day and eat healthy food
Follow the advice to stay at home. You can keep in touch with people you trust over the phone or the internet.
Read advice about supporting someone with special needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
For more advice on minding your mental health visit inclusionireland.ie
It is also important to prevent spreading the virus. For information on how to do this, read the HSE Coronavirus Easy-Read Information Booklet.
OCD and coronavirus
If you have OCD, you may develop an intense fear of:
- catching coronavirus
- causing harm to others
- things not being in order
Fear of being infected by the virus may mean you become obsessed with:
- hand hygiene
- avoiding certain situations, such as using public transport
Washing your hands
The compulsion to wash your hands or clean may get stronger. If you have recovered from this type of compulsion in the past, it may return.
Follow the advice above. Wash your hands properly and often, but you do not need to do more than recommended.
Read more about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms, treatment and getting help.
This article from the journal.ie website https://www.thejournal.ie/ looks at how new and expectant mothers may find themselves struggling with mental health issues in the current pandemic situation. Remember if you are struggling with any issues you can contact Donegal Parent Support line on FREEPHONE 1800 112277.
You can also click the link to download Aware NI A guide to looking after the mental health of you and your baby
Some new and expectant mothers finding Covid-19 crisis ‘very challenging’
NEW AND EXPECTANT mothers should not hesitate to seek help for mental health issues, especially as they may worsen due to the pandemic, a consultant in the Rotunda Hospital has advised.
The hospital provides a specialist psychiatry service for women who are thinking of conceiving, those who are pregnant and for women up to a year after they give birth as part of its mental health hub.
Up to one in five women experience mental health difficulties in pregnancy or after birth, according to the HSE.
A consultant of perinatal psychiatry at the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Richard Duffy, said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on many peoples’ mental health so far.
Perinatal refers to any time from conception up to around a year after birth.
“A lot of the women who attend our service, some are in direct provision, homeless and some are in quite cramped accommodation and it’s very difficult for people in such circumstances to manage at a time like this after giving birth,” Duffy told TheJournal.ie.
“For people in those situations, it has definitely been very challenging.
“A lot of people are very reliant on their parents – the mothers and fathers are relying on their parents for support and when they’re deprived of seeing them it adds an extra pressure.”
Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy, affecting about 10-15% of pregnant women.
The mental health hub in the Rotunda can help to treat a wide range of pre-existing and newly developed conditions including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and birth trauma.
Duffy said in the first few weeks of the pandemic, some new mothers found it a bit easier as there was no pressure to see a lot of people after the birth of their child.
However, he said overall this time has had a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of pregnant people and mothers with newborn babies.
“We are seeing women who may be in hospital for four or five days or potentially longer for their birth with no visitors… This can be stressful,” Duffy said.
For any new or expectant mothers experiencing mental health difficulties, Duffy recommends contacting a GP or the service directly sooner rather than later.
“For a lot of mental health services, people feel there are a lot of barriers. We try to remove as many of the barriers as possible for women,” he said.
I think a lot of people are afraid of attending our services. It’s in no way a reflection of somebody’s ability to parent if they are experiencing mental health issues, it’s really common and in most places it’s very treatable.
“For people who are pregnant, it’s really important they try and treat mental health difficulties while they are pregnant instead of waiting to see if it goes away when the baby is born,” Duffy said.
The mental health hub in the Rotunda also provides some specialist services to Cavan General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
This hub is comprised of consultants, non-consultant hospital doctors, mental health nurses, psychologists, social workers and administration staff members.
In terms of adjusting some services during the pandemic, a lot of consultations are done over the phone and some therapy is provided via video link.
A specialist clinic for birth trauma and tokophobia, which is the fear of birth, is also being developed in the Rotunda.
“Our midwives and our psychologist have really led the way with these clinics and it’s an emerging area,” Duffy said.
Remember if you need to talk to someone about any of these issue or other parenting challenges which are stressing you at the moment just FREEPHONE 1800 112277 for the Donegal Parent Support line.
If you have teenagers and young adults who are struggling with social distancing this article by Psychology Professor Michelle Drouin may be useful. The original can be downloaded from the Psychology Today website here https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/love-online/202003/how-talk-teens-young-adults-about-social-distancing
How to Talk to Teens & Young Adults About Social Distancing
The key is understanding their unique perspective.
Posted Mar 22, 2020
Today, I heard of a concerning trend: College kids posting Instagram photos of themselves on Spring Break—defying rules related to social isolation and mocking older generations for being too careful. Bikini-clad with drinks in hand, these Gen Y and Gen Zers seemed to be saying, “Stay inside, grandpa, but we’re healthy and ready to party.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic in full effect and sanctions mounting in both the U.S. and globally, two camps seem to be emerging: (1) those who are growing worried and cautious about the chance of contacting or spreading the virus and thus adhering to social distancing, and (2) those who feel the concerns and sanctions are overblown and are still choosing to gather in groups, travel, and live life as if COVID-19 were not an impending threat.
Teens and young adults seem especially likely to be in the latter camp. And from my perspective as a developmental psychologist, this makes sense for a number of reasons.
First, from a basic biological perspective, teens and young adults still do not have command of the full set of executive functions, especially those related to planning and considering future consequences, that older adults have. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid- to late-20s, which leaves many teens and young adults prone to impulsivity and unlikely to consider consequences that an older adult would easily contemplate.
Second, from a socioemotional standpoint, many teens and young adults are in the developmental stage of identity formation (Erik Erikson). It is critical for them to have the opportunity discover who they are, set their own boundaries, and establish their own values and beliefs, apart from those of their parents. They are often separating from their families, both geographically and socially, because they are developing their own identities. During this time, they may test rules and boundaries imposed on them by parents and other authority figures not because they want to be contrary, but because they are trying to answer the fundamental questions of “Who am I?” and “What can I be?”
Third, many teens and young adults may feel like they are unique and invincible—this is known as the personal fable. They may believe that no one has ever gone through anything like they are going through, and an illusion of invulnerability may make them believe that the COVID-19 virus could never affect them. Again, this is a common psychological phenomenon, but it may make them appear self-centered and increase the likelihood of impulsive behavior.
So what can you do when your teen or young adult wants to defy government- or parent-mandated sanctions regarding COVID and social isolation?
Most importantly, it’s necessary to have sympathy. In fact, nothing like this has ever happened before in most of our lifetimes. These teens and young adults are missing once-in-a-lifetime events, and there is no way to stop or rewind the clock so that they can have these moments back. Let them talk to you about what they are missing, and instead of dismissing their concerns or comparing them to the death and despair caused by the virus, hear them, understand that these are big moments in their lives, and let them grieve the loss of these opportunities.
Next, talk with them about ways to bridge the gaps between what they want in an ideal world and what they can have in the current climate. Couple your wisdom and knowledge of the ways of the world with their interests and use of technology to try to come up with creative ways to enrich their lives without having to see their friends and attend events in person. Be committed to this partnership in problem-solving, and be flexible about ways to help them feel connected to the events and people they feel that they are missing.
Encourage teens and young adults to think outside of themselves. The more concrete your encouragement, the better. For example, you could model empathy and benevolence by writing letters to residents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and have your teen or young adult join you. Or have them call their grandparents or loved ones in vulnerable populations so that they can hear the voices of people whose lives might be at risk if they get the virus from someone who is seemingly health and symptom free. If you give them opportunities to help and sympathize with others, it may help them see beyond their own social woes and get a better sense of the bigger picture.
Finally, if you find that your child is exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety, reassure them that they are not alone. If you think they may be in crisis or needing professional help, point them to trusted resources: Mental health providers nationwide are gearing up to provide online mental health treatment (call your general practitioner or local mental health facility if you need a referral). Or if you find they just need someone to talk to (and they are not in crisis), they can also connect for free with volunteers on websites like 7 Cups of Tea and Crisis Text Line. Fortunately, those most in need of these online resources (i.e., teens and young adults with high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress) appear to be most open to using them (Toscos et al., 2018; Toscos et al., 2019).
Most importantly– take care of yourself, too! The resources listed above are not just for your children. Take time to acknowledge your own stress and anxiety, and model good health hygiene by taking care of your own needs, both physical and psychological. “Do as I do, not just as I say,” might be the best way to get everyone on the same page regarding social distancing.
In Ireland if you are concerned about the mental well-being of a teenager or young adult you can contact Jigsaw https://www.jigsaw.ie/
From the RTÉ website updated / Tuesday, 7 Apr 2020 07:14
Our house is home to three teenagers. Last week, when social distancing first came into practice and teenagers were being criticised for not complying, our eldest became indignant. “Adults are giving out that we’re not respecting the science about social distancing” she said, “while they’ve been ignoring the science on global warming for years”. Since Greta Thunberg’s rise to prominence, global warming has come to be associated with young people. Social distancing since the coronavirus outbreak, not so much.
A so-called “Corona challenge” has been described in the mainstream media in recent days. It’s unclear how widespread these incidents are (our teens hadn’t come across this at all on social media), but reports have associated it with young people. Minister for Health Simon Harris recently mentioned an incident when someone thought it would be funny to run up to him and cough in his face. In that case, the perpetrators turned out not to be teens, but an older couple.
RTÉ Brainstorm podcast on how to mind your mental health during the lockdown
Whether these distinctions in behaviour are well founded or not (it wasn’t only teens out for walks together), it’s made me think about how young people are affected by the coronavirus and whether this differs from older adults. How do pandemics affect the general population? Here, the research has suggested what will probably seem obvious to most. Firstly, information is really important to assess risk and take relevant precautions and, secondly, communication about steps being taken is key to managing uncertainty, a key factor in anxiety.
A recent review of quarantine studies was published in The Lancet by Samantha Brooks and colleagues. They observed that a key determinant of people’s ability to cope psychologically was having an understanding of why quarantine was important and exactly how long they would be in lock-down. But this review also suggest that those between 16 and 24 years of age might be particularly at risk of poorer psychological coping.
As a developmental stage, young adulthood is a particularly sensitive period in psychological development. We know that 75% of all mental health problems first occur during this period. Good data for Ireland on this group comes from MYWORLD_2, a landmark national survey of over 8,000 young adults published recently. Approximately half of this representative sample showed high levels of anxiety in 18-25 year olds even before the pandemic.
From RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime, Della Kilroy reports on new research about teen mental health
This was not just worrying: anxiety here related to experiencing what psychologists consider to be clinically significant symptoms. Neither was this “business as usual” for this age group as these scores were significantly higher that was reported for a similar age group less that 10 years previously. The top stressors reported by young adults were college, the future and finances.
The real reasons for this massive surge in mental health difficulties are often debated. Social media is often blamed, but high self-expectations and long term consequences of recession related financial instability may be just as important.
How are these individuals, who are already showing significant difficulties, likely to cope now? With some difficulty, is the answer. Social isolation (including the inability to gather in peer groups, no sporting outlets etc.), boredom and a lack of routine are likely to compound the mental health difficulties already being experienced.
From RTÉ Radio 1’s Ray D’Arcy Show, interview with Tim Lomas, author of The Positive Power of Negative Emotions which shows the necessity of sadness, anxiety, envy and boredom
Of course, this is unlikely happen immediately. Unlikely physical illness, the psychological fallout from emergencies such as the present one may not be felt right away. If anything, young people may respond positively initially to college closures and the suspension of usual routines as the prospect of one big long break may initially bolster all moods.
But even beyond young people, the delayed effects arising following being caught up in an emergency are well known. The graph below from the HSE’s Psychosocial & Mental Health Needs Following Major Emergencies guidance document illustrates that it’s often only when physical/medical needs start to resolve that emotional needs are felt. What this graph also suggests is that while immediate (acute) needs may resolve quickly, psychological needs can take longer to resolve.
But how can sitting at home as a young person be considered as any sort of emergency? In truth, we don’t know for sure because our current situation is unprecedented. But clues about the likely answer can be found in a number of places. For one thing, we know that the effects of social isolation and loneliness are damaging. A review based on data from more than 70 studies found that chronic loneliness and isolation was associated with significantly increased mortality. Relating these chronic effects to the current situation, the author Julianne Holt-Lunstad suggested there was a risk that people would start to habituate to being isolated and find the habit hard to break even when restrictions were lifted.
Sound alarmist? Not according to scientists who study post traumatic stress disorder, a type of mental health disorder affecting some individuals who experience a traumatic event. Compared to the present pandemic, they argue that the effects of major disasters like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina or the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at least had finite endings. We’re stuck in something where we don’t know when it will end and many of our normal needs and coping strategies have been disrupted in the meantime.
The opportunity to get dressed up, go out, and meet up is sorely missed by this group and they’re already starting to talk about big post-coronavirus parties
Among these needs, the need to connect socially is paramount. Aristotle defined humans as essentially social animals and modern neuroscience still holds this to be true. The “social brain” hypothesis suggests that our brains have evolved to allow us to connect with others on a large scale so as to solve problems and gain acess to physical and emotional support.
In her book Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, Sarah Jane Blakemore argues that developing this ‘social’ brain takes time and effort, and most of all experience. One way of thinking about the brain is like a tree that is pruned by learning experience. Unlike other animals who reach maturity relatively quickly, humans are slow to mature because they need time to gather the experiences to map out their social worlds and know how to respond adequately.
Sarah-Jayne Blackmore’s TED talk on the mysterious workings of the adolescent brain
But weren’t young people getting that primarily from TikTok and Snapchat anyway, modes of interaction that are alive and well if the number of memes floating around are anything to go by? Well, yes: certainly taking a phone from a teenager is like akin to taking a gazelle’s thigh bone from a tiger. However, that’s all well and good as a supplement to other social activities, including schools and colleges, hanging out in each others houses, going on night’s out and so on.
We all understand the limitations of social media such as the lack of depth, and the frequent misunderstandings. Video clips and memes do allow us to connect at a certain level – we share, we laugh together, we are entertained, we can feel connected and we feel we know what’s going on. One interesting example has been the increased use of Houseparty, an app where young people video chat in groups in a virtual house. Just as in a real house party, you can choose to join or leave conversations. Just as friends of friends might join in at a regular party, same here.
Humans are slow to mature because they need time to gather the experiences to map out their social worlds and know how to respond adequately
Of course, this virtual contact can’t meet all social needs. The opportunity to get dressed up, go out, and meet up is sorely missed by this group and they’re already starting to talk about big post-coronavirus parties. But in the meantime, this is what they have. Our current situation is unlikely to help parents who were afraid of the effect of too much screen time and social media.
So what message should you be giving to the young people in your house? Well, according to the evidence, the poet Hesiod is probably still right: moderation is best in all things. Based on the MYWORLD_2 survey, spending more than three hours per day on social media was associated with poorer coping and greater difficult with mood and anxiety. Now that young people have to sit at home all day, could that be a rule of thumb? Whether it is or not, understanding the need for social contact, both for mental health and for developing brains, will be key to helping young people cope in the coming weeks.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.
Supporting young people to stay positive and motivated
This has been reproduced from the Jigsaw website and the original is available here https://jigsawonline.ie/parents-and-guardians/webinar-supporting-young-people-to-stay-positive-and-motivated/?utm_source=CM&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Updates_7
We ran a webinar for parents on Monday, 27 April where two Jigsaw clinicians gave a presentation on supporting young people to stay positive and motivated. They then took questions from parents about what was going on for them.
The lockdown has gone on longer than any of us could have foreseen at the beginning and is now what people are calling the ‘new normal’. However, it can still feel far from normal particularly with things like school, college and work suspended, uncertain or over in some cases.
Keeping yourself and the young people in your life positive and motivated right now can take a bit of of extra work. Hopefully, this webinar covers useful tips for you to try at this time.