Today, The Next Half will have a change of tone due to a pressing and timely concern. We continue our mission to provide weekly fodder to encourage further thought, reflection, and conversation on the issues we face. Sometimes we do this with positivity and light-heartedness. Sometimes we express a collective worry in the belief that an additional voice can only help. This is what we will do today.
Let’s discuss our concern for our younger generation. A significant proportion of us are worried and this is more than the usual low rumbling parental concern. One doesn’t have to be a parent to see the tough reality facing our younger generation now. It is not overstating to say we are in a global crisis which will have a profound and lasting impact on our next generation’s mental and economic health. Wherever we live in the world, our youth have faced huge repercussions from the pandemic and governments’ responses to it. These consequences are worrying and must be further addressed. Let’s remember the saying “a worry shared is a worry halved” and let’s hope it’s correct.
The Next Half is voicing our collective concern now, a timely discussion as the G7 convenes and the British government plans to announce its decision on lifting its lockdown over the next few days. Let’s hope another voice shouting may help encourage further focus and practical action steps regarding our collective concern for our younger generation. So shouting is what we will do today.
In England, we hope our restrictions may finally be lifted on 21 June. This is to be decided on next week, and many now fear more delay is inevitable. It has been reported that the current Delta strain is 6 x more contagious than the original. The UK announced on 9 June the highest number of cases since February. For this reason, many suspect we will not be allowed to be “free” and are facing another delay in the lockdown lifting. Another delay in returning to normalcy. And for what exact reason? It is no longer clear to me. What is clear is that Britain seems to have a stricter and longer lockdown period of resitrictions than many other countries. It’s time we ask: are this still really necessary?
I wonder why a longer period of restrictions will further protect us. Are the goals posts moving again? When we locked down in March 2020, we didn’t have a vaccine. Now over 75% of the UK adult population has been vaccinated, as the BBC reported on 8 June. Britain has done a marvellous job rolling out the vaccine. I ask now what’s the level of vaccinated population we need to protect us? The CEO of NHS Providers stated in The Independent yesterday that the “link between infections, hospital admissions and deaths has been broken by the rollout of the vaccine”. Well then, why continue to restrict us? One wonders if the Government has another motive like planning to not lift the restrictions until late August when all the 12s and over are expected to be vaccinated. Will we then all be protected? I don’t even wish to pose the question: what if another strain is found?
We all have personal issues that press our buttons and reduce our patience with this lockdown. I don’t understand the inconsistent policies here in England. Why are 10,000 people allowed to gather in stadiums to watch professional sports but simultaneously not more than 30 are permitted in garden? Why are some travellers quarantined and some have business exemptions since the virus can’t read a passport permit? What is going on with the Department of Education? Are our leaders unable to devise and implement creative solutions which mitigate our disappointments and worry?
Most importantly, where has our right to use our own judgement gone?
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve dutifully followed the guidelines over the last 15 months. Or is it 17 months? I’m losing track. I did this with less griping and complaining than many of my friends. I believed the lockdown was the best strategy for our collective health and safety. Britain did an impressive job rolling out the vaccine. But this hold on our lives is getting old now and is no longer justifiable.
We want to sensibly enjoy the summer months, to attend - with caution - birthday celebrations, weddings, and graduation ceremonies. Some wish to go to the theatre of their choice. But in the UK, we still can’t. We aren’t allowed. Other parts of the world can. But not here. Some may yearn to travel abroad for a holiday or to see family. But we face strict, anxiety- inducing restrictions. Other countries don’t. I echo Theresa May‘s comment reported today: why do we in Britain face travel restrictions that are “incomprehensible” in one of the most vaccinated countries in the world?
Living in hope has become tiresome. It is no longer logical to me that we simply accept missing milestones in our lives. We all deserve to be treated like sensible adults.
The Worries For Our Younger Generation
The young adults in their 20s: We are right to be worried for our youth. The under 30s in the UK have been hit hard. Life has been altered for them for no fault of their own. At best, their young lives have been interrupted and put on hold. At worst, their paths have been permanently affected and altered. There are fewer jobs and apprenticeships. Socialising has ground to a halt. Expected milestones are cancelled. The repercussions of this are hugely concerning.
Restrictions on seeing people and being able to go outside, the impact of loneliness, and worries about health of family and friends were key factors in driving the increase of mental health concerns. According to the ONS, one in five young adults in Britain say they experienced some form of depression during the pandemic. This is concerning as this rate has doubled since pre-pandemic levels. Equally concerning is that many people are not seeking medical help at the pre pandemic levels, due to restrictions and changes in health service use. Whilst overall GP diagnoses levels have decreased, depression is making up a larger percentage of the overall diagnoses. It is clear the lasting effects of the traumas and economic pressures of lockdown will be felt for a long time.
The kids aged 18-22: We worry for university aged kids in Britain. For those attending university, they are contending with life in virtual lessons which isn’t a real uni experience. They have been resilient. However, enough is enough. The fact that some unis in England have announced they are continuing online lessons for the next year - not just autumn term - seems simply unjust.
Now that two graduating years are competing in a smaller job pool, the students graduating this year face fewer job prospects than usual. That’s tough. For those applying to uni this year, this normally stressful process has been riddled with even more anxieties than usual. Kids have been rejected outright or offered courses they haven’t applied to. I’m sure the dropout rate this and next year has increased. What a nightmare for these kids.
I see children in the US are enjoying relatively normal life at uni. They are actually enjoying graduation ceremonies. That’s a big personal button presser for me as my kids in the U.K. can’t enjoy theirs. They weren’t given that option. We are told to wait a year and celebrate next year with the last 2 years. When I see on Facebook all the celebrations abroad, I am frustrated, perhaps even jealous, and wonder why kids in Britain can’t enjoy the important milestone of graduating?
Our youth is resilient and get on with it, but at what cost? We need to allow them to resume their lives. We need to provide jobs so they can be functioning members of adult society, like they want to be. And we need to listen, address, and provide support for their mental health issues which is an undoubted result of this lockdown.
Teens in Britain: I also worry for the children that are in their school years.
The impact of school closures was significant and is still being felt. Now that schools are open again, the students are still negatively affected by the Department of Education’s inconsistent messaging and lukewarm responses to this pandemic. I worry for the kids taking their National Exams both because they’ve had to contend with more assessments than usual as well as the uncertainty and inconsistency of this current system. Will their “assessed” grades be accurate and fair? Will some schools have more lenient examination procedures than others? Of course. Good luck, kids. I can’t help but wonder if in a few years we will look back and simply negate these years’ results as not defensible. The understatement of the year is that the Department of Ed needs to get it together or be expunged. The brain drain from Britain is inevitable.
I worry that the line has blurred between values that must be instilled from home and those that should be supported at school. Perhaps neither segment is doing its job in instilling appropriate social behaviour boundaries. This is not solely an effect of the pandemic, but is not being improved by it. Both home and school are pointing the responsibility finger to the other. What is that about? Providing functioning processes for communicating and instilling BOTH home value codes AND school behavioural codes is fundamental to the raising of healthy children. We’ve lost this focus and until we partner in this again, our kids will continue to suffer.
So what can we do about it?
We can’t control this dismal narrative, but we can control our response to it.
Whilst there is no concrete solution one person can propose to fix all this, we can loudly discuss our grave concerns and insist collectively that they are addressed. Let’s tell the decision makers enough is enough and to get focusing on establishing practical solutions to rebuild the lives of our younger generation. Let's believe that will accomplish productive end results. We have to try, right?
Let’s hope that the 47th Group of Seven summit being hosted this weekend in Cornwall is an opportunity to forge solutions. Whilst the countries’ leaders gather in Carbis Bay, let’s insist they discuss practical proposals to address mapping a path out of this pandemic, including getting more vaccines to developing countries and rebuilding the global economy. Let’s hope the solutions identified will quickly and thoroughly address the economic and mental strife we and our next generation are facing. Let’s get them to read The Next Half’s blog!
It is understood that US-UK leaders will announce a joint task force in a concerted effort to see the return of transatlantic tourism. Let’s insist another Taskforce is formed by all leaders to address the situation facing our next generation with concrete and practical solutions.
We can’t pin all our hope on actions by elected politicians, obviously. Let’s each also make an effort to increase the communication within our families and communities to continue showing support, building resilience, and teaching the importance of coping mechanisms and praising the little wins. Let’s reiterate to our kids that this is indeed a particularly tough time, the hardest time in many of our lives. Let’s reiterate that it’s OK to not have achieved what they had hoped to. Maybe uni didn’t happen this year. Maybe we can’t find an apprenticeship or a job. But we will if we keep trying. Disappointments happen and the results are often out of our control. That’s part of life. But the key is to learn from the setbacks and to move on.
Let’s continue to teach the younger generation the importance of resilience, of learning from disappointments, seeking help when needed, and moving on emblazoned. Fortified. Stronger.
Let’s simultaneously keep our fingers crossed.
Dear Readers, please do comment and share your thoughts for further conversation on the topic of being Worried for Our Next Generation. Many thanks.