The Kusnacht Practice’s Melissa Nobile – Clinical Operations Manager Geneva, recently spoke in an interview with Arabian Business on how the pandemic has impacted young people’s mental health.
Adolescence is a phase where young people learn autonomy and develop their own identities, but Covid-19 has deprived young people of many standard experiences that they typically go through as they develop.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on areas of day to day life such as health, economy, career, leisure, family, and other social relationships as a whole. As the global pandemic erupted in early 2020, the initial focus was on survival and protecting those at high-risk from falling physically ill to the virus, with little to no attention allocated to how lockdowns would impact mental health.
At that time, in most countries, the young generation was considered less infectious and less likely to develop severe illness and, as a result, any form of repercussions for this population flew under the radar. It is as if a “mental health silence” was at play to begin with: Everybody stayed home, silently… followed, a few months later, by a drastic increase in the need for urgent psychiatric support, especially in young people.
Adolescence is defined as a process through which individuals have a certain number of developmental tasks that they need to achieve, the main ones being to gradually acquire autonomy and independence as well as develop an identity of their own – very largely through socialisation within their peer group and exposure to reallife experiences. With this framework, it becomes quite easy to imagine how challenging going through this normal, natural, and necessary process to become well-rounded adults has been in times of a global pandemic, riddled with limitations.
Without opportunities to explore the world and confined in their homes, young people have been temporarily deprived from being able to engage in activities that would allow them to build confidence and self-esteem, make mistakes that would eventually help them find their limits and understand boundaries. This period is typically marked additionally by learning new skills and competencies through exploring and experiencing the world. To complicate the situation further, access to certain mental healthcare services was at times impacted, with some young people reluctant to attend an online therapy or consultation and becoming increasingly isolated and distressed.
Symptoms such as excessive time spent behind the screens, panic attacks and other signs of anxiety, feeling depressed or developing eating disorders increased among this age group. Some adolescents, more vulnerable for a variety of different reasons, developed strong feelings of helplessness, sometimes resulting in worrying signs of suicide ideation. Among students, most continued schooling online and adapted easily to the temporary structure put in place, and once the schools returned to the in-person format, they re-engaged without any difficulties.
Some, however, dropped out from the school system for a number of different reasons, for example because their situation was already very challenging and on the verge of collapsing before the pandemic, family conflicts in the household making it difficult to spend time studying and focus on an online class, or disruptions of sleeping patterns due to the lack of usual activities that would normally define the rhythm of their days. For this group of young people, the consequences would be like dragging around a ball and chain for years to come, with the risk of worsening already fragile mental health.
The lessons that can be drawn from the pandemic are, however, mixed and it is important to look at the nuances. For the majority of adolescents and young adults, they will have seen the lockdowns and limitations as a unique opportunity to learn a new hobby, develop their imagination and creativity, become more knowledgable about technology, or to reaffirm interpersonal bonds and learn to value the importance and beauty of relationships more than ever, may it be with parents, siblings or with friends. These lessons may well be a gift to cherish that they can carry with them for a lifetime. For a minority however, this pandemic will have created challenges and fragilities for which professional support may be needed to get back on a path where day-to-day life can be resumed.
At The Kusnacht Practice, we are very focused on the stresses that ultra high net worth individuals, royal families and CEOs are under and, more recently, on the stress that the pandemic has caused in this population. Families are systems, and all systems seek equilibrium. When one family member is going through prolonged stress or other difficulties, the others are often impacted. And vice versa, when the children or young adults of the family are struggling, parents and siblings are often affected in return.
In our Youth Programme, designed for adolescents and young adults from the age of 15 years old, our approach is individualised to each person. In group settings, the incoming clients have to adapt to the one-size-fits-all programs usually in place, which works for many, and fails for others.
The beauty of our Youth Programme is that we reinvent the programme for each client and their family, tailoring every component of it to their unique situation and life journey. We evaluate biological, medical, psychological, social and environmental factors at play in each client’s difficulties – whether it be a specific symptom or set of symptoms, or pandemic struggles, or something else altogether.
And then, we create an integrated plan with the support from a multi-disciplinary team of experts in all fields who together contribute their knowledge to the healing of our clients.
– Melissa Nobile, Clinical Operations Manager Geneva at The Kusnacht Practice.