The 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative (DAC)1 and EnterChange Innovations (ECI)2 organized a youth consultation with 50+ persons on 10 June, 2021 with a view to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the youth. ECI is a youth engagement partner for DAC, and is a leading organization that engages youth on matters of sexual and reproductive health and sexual rights.
The objective of this youth consultation was to bring together young voices on one platform, to hear directly from them about their challenges and needs amid a global pandemic, and to learn how are they dealing with their mental health in these stressful times. The conversations though were particularly broken down into two areas — Understanding the emotions that the youth are going through and the coping mechanisms they’ve adopted to deal with them; and understanding their concerns and questions that have stemmed from the living in the pandemic.
Based on the discussions and activities, it was understood that the youth are primarily feeling and shifting between four emotions:
Boredom due to lack of engagement with peers or opportunities to go out
Anger to the lack of control over the situation
Anxiety due to lack of clarity about the future
Despair due to lack of hope for a bright future
Based on a survey carried out during the seminar with the participants, about 67% of the youth accepted to be suffering from grief & pessimistic thoughts about their future or what it will bring for them. As many as 64% of the participants said that they were feeling regularly stressed due to the pandemic, and 55% mentioned that they were not feeling happy since the pandemic entered India.
Evidently, interruption of education, loss of family income, lack of clarity about the future, increased in domestic abuse and forced child labour were the key stressors for the young people, besides of course the direct impact of the virus on people’s health.
These direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic has also left the young with several questions about the virus, the vaccine, their families and their future. Some of the key concern areas for the youth were found to be around (See annexure for a complete list of questions):
The spread of the virus and the possibility of a third wave
The efficacy of the available vaccines and myths around it
The support provided by the government for families who have lost their loved ones or livelihood in the pandemic
The roadmap to their aspirations and futures
In such times, it has been thus hard for young people to keep themselves motivated or in positive spirits, yet, many of them shared activities that they engage in to keep their spirits afloat, and their ideas around what can young people do to deal with their feelings better
Initially, when the country was under a lockdown, the youth participants relied on their personal smartphones or their family smartphones to watch videos and multimedia content to relive stress and pass time.
Later, when times were slightly better and allowed small group gatherings, youth engaged in group activities and sports such as sewing, embroidery, cooking, dancing, singing and football.
As the young people understood each other’s challenges better, especially those with respect to interruption of education, some of them started each other through peer-to-peer learning. This not only helped them revise or impart their skills, but also kept them occupied while giving them a short-term purpose to wake up every morning.
Another commonly heard response from the participants was around setting a daily routine to keep themselves motivated.
The participants also mentioned that they realised that for them to feel positive, it was also important that their families felt positive, so they made efforts to engage the parents and siblings in various activities.
To overcome boredom, the participants said that they engaged in reading story books, listening to songs and picking up individual-based activities such as applying henna or cooking their favourite dishes.
Many of them claimed that they utilised the time to recognise their skills and hobbies towards craft making, painting and furnishing.
A few others said that regular physical activities such as sports, running, exercising kept them going, while many others used the time to pick up on indoor skills such as sewing or tutoring other children in the community.
All through though, WhatsApp and other mobile apps, remained a key tool to engage with friends and family to deal with the loneliness.
Most of the participants accepted that their creative instincts helped them keep themselves in a positive mood, and also allowed them to infuse positivity in others around them.
When the lockdown was announced, several families were struck by sudden loss of income, which meant fewer resources to provide food for the family. This was a major stressor, and led to frequent chaos and arguments in the house. The youth felt especially helpless, and so they initially turned to music and movies, often meditative or inspiration, to control their emotions, and then found solace in activities like yoga and exercise to channel their negative energy.
Young people also found escape in social media and participated in trends to feel excitement.
Setting a routine and agenda for the day, also helped a lot of youth participants to channel their energy into the right things, without becoming the cause of anger for anyone else too.
Fear of the disease, lack of medical facilities and uncertainty about the future were major reasons for despair among the participants. To deal with this, students tried to participate in various webinar or peer-to-peer learning activities. They picked up new skills and tried to share it with others around them.
Other than that, painting, reading books were also common ideas from the participants around dealing with despair.
The participants almost unanimously agreed that talking to their peers, accepting the situation and providing mutual support infused hope and positivity in them.
As next steps, the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative has planned a series of similar consultations with young people across urban, peri-urban, rural geographies to understand their challenges and their needs but to also address their questions and concerns about their present and their futures.
An easy-to-reference document based on the questions and concerns received from these sessions will be shared back with the participants for what
Based on the learnings collated through our consultations, and other engagements, a charter of action will be co-created with key stakeholders to provide an action pathway for supporting young people out of the COVID crisis.
We will be establishing a Youth Working Group, to provide their perspectives on challenges and solutions for immediate and longer-term COVID responses focused on adolescents & youth.
We are also leveraging social and traditional media to raise the adolescent perspective in the mainstream narrative around COVID and beyond.
Having heard from the participants about their feelings and their approaches to dealing with their mental health in these stressful times, the session also provided them with an opportunity to share their questions with DAC. These questions, which ranged from personal and family to the virus and role of the government, were able to capture broadly what the young people are thinking, what are their concerns, what are the myths that they’ve heard and what do they need from the stakeholders that support them.
At the 10to19 Dasra Adolescents Collaborative, we hope to pick up some of the pressing questions and collate answers/recommendations to them over a series of engagements with them and other stakeholders. We also want to use of these questions and suggestion from the young people and take it to the government.
When will Covid end?
Why are young children, who’ve not even stepped out of their houses, getting infected?
What medicines should be taken if you have early signs of the virus?
When a person dies of corona, why are the relatives not allowed to see the body?
Last year, the doctors, nurses and police were more helpful during the lockdown. Why has that changed this time around?
What is the actual count of Corona deaths?
Corona has been almost completely controlled in many countries, so why has India not been able to control it?
Why are people dying of the virus in hospitals, but not at homes?
If the breadwinner of a family dies of the virus, will the government provide any financial or other support?
When will Covid end? Are the vaccines safe?
Some countries have single-dose vaccines, why don’t we have them in India?
Why are people dying after taking the first dose of the vaccine?
Is it true that one vaccine is more effective than the other?
How long does the vaccine’s effect last?
Why does India not have more effective vaccines like some of the other countries?
If one is not effected by the virus, why does the person need to take the vaccine?
Why do some people report of fever and body ache after taking the vaccine?
Can you take the vaccine if you’re on your period?
How will everyone be prepared to get the vaccine?
Is there a third wave coming, and why?
What arrangements have been made for the potential third wave of the virus?
When will be able to go back to the normal?
Will schools reopen if the third wave is coming?
This corona has destroyed everyone’s future. So what is the future for them?
The virus has led to inflation. How will this get better?
During an election period, the government does not impose any lockdown or follow Covid precautions. But when it comes to opening schools and colleges, they use the excuse of the virus. Don’t children have a future? When will schools and colleges reopen?
How will we earn if there is no work?
Is it true that if a person does not take the vaccine, they will not be allowed any government facilities?
Do we not need to go to the doctor if the Covid report comes negative?
Even a conversation about the virus leads to stress, how can we deal with it?
Why is the government not addressing unemployment in its state?
Will the students who have been promoted without giving an exam, be able to prepare themselves for the next exam?
Can people who were working in another state, return to work?
Will the government address the issue of missed opportunities for the young or compensate for the two lost years?
Will we be able to get jobs after this interruption to our education?
If online education systems are faulty or biased towards those with access, how will we learn anything?
Why are liquor stores open but schools closed?
Many children have been forced to drop out of schools, especially those without mobile phones or the Internet. The government should do something to address this.
The government should ensure the young have employment opportunities across the country.
With the Board exams cancelled, the institutions should come up with an alternative to assess their preparation and knowledge.
Inflation has affected all aspects of life, including access to medicines and food. This should be addressed.
The government should pay attention to the falling GDP and mitigate its impact on people.