Teenagers and youths in their early 20s are increasingly growing lonely and feeling nervous about contracting COVID-19, according to new findings.

Richmond Foundation research, which spanned over nine months, shows that while in August half of those aged between 16 and 24 had reported loneliness, 75 per cent are currently feeling lonely.

Loneliness among young people had also been high at the beginning of the pandemic. Back in April, when schools were shut down and people were being urged to self-isolate at home, around 82 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 had expressed feelings of loneliness.

Meanwhile, those aged over 65 are at the loneliest they have ever been throughout the pandemic.

One in three of all respondents have reported a low mood

The foundation’s CEO, Stephania Dimech Sant noted that despite data showing that people are gradually adapting to the situation, one in three of all respondents have reported a low mood. 

“This suggests that while the initial panic about the pandemic has subsided and people are adjusting to the current way of life, the current situation is impacting their mood. 

“As they did in October, people reported high concern about their own mental health in December, increasing even further in the 16 to 24 age group.”

16% of those aged between 16 and 24 thought about suicide

Feeling low and isolated is also reflected in the overall increase in people who recently thought about suicide on one or two days a week. 

More than 16 per cent of those aged between 16 and 24 thought about suicide at least once in one week in December – up from less than four per cent in June.

Carried out by Esprimi, the research sought to record the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Malta from more than 3,000 people. It kicked off in April and surveys were also held in June, August, October and finally between November 27 and December 10.

At the beginning of the research, only 17.8 per cent of respondents talked to someone about the way they were feeling about COVID-19, while currently, more than one out of every four people (28.4 per cent) are doing so.

This mirrors the spike in demand for services by Richmond which has just launched a fundraising campaign to be able to continue providing free support.

Calls to Richmond increased by 400% in nine months

Calls to Richmond over the past nine months increased by 400 per cent, while follow-up sessions increased by 267 per cent.

While calls on 1770 were previously focused on concern for others, they are now more about the callers’ own mental health. 

“Despite the unfortunate context, one may draw some hope from the fact that people are becoming aware that it is ok not to be ok, and that they are becoming more aware of their own mental health and actually reaching out for help,” Dimech Sant said. 

She urged people to especially look out for youths and the elderly.

“Our elderly need as much support as they can get, and it is essential that we keep in contact with them as best as we can.  Those working in elderly homes need to be supported so that their well-being is sustained, and they can provide high quality and loving care to our elderly while these are separated from their loved ones.

“As for our young people, the impact on their mental health will determine their future quality of life, chances and potential.  The availability of early intervention services for young people is essential if we want to limit, as much as possible, long-term negative effects on our young people’s mental health.”

What is the research saying?

  • Trust in the government’s handling of the outbreak has dipped, but respondents’ faith in God increased. While 21.8 per cent admitted they prayed or found faith in God or their religion in the second wave of research, 30.6 per cent said they did so at the end of November and beginning of December.
  • In December, one in five people still do not feel comfortable working at their workplace because of the constant contact with people or high exposure to possibly infected people. Another 16 per cent said they were concerned over the difficulty to maintain social distancing at the workplace.
  • Hopes of going back to normal soon have waned along the year. While nearly 60 per cent used to think it will take three months or more for things to go back to normal in April, three out of every four people think so now.

Richmond remains committed to providing services to all those who reach out to it on 1770.  However, it needs support.  A number of services are highly funded by government, but others which are provided for free are sustained by Richmond though fund raising.  Help them help though the Gift of Therapy

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