Young people’s mental well-being suffered most during crisis, GEMS report shows
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Young people’s mental well-being suffered most during crisis, GEMS report shows

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Young people’s mental health and well-being have been under the most pressure during the coronavirus crisis, according to a report by the GEMS, the advisory group to the Belgian government, that compiled all the available studies on the subject.

The different studies on the mental health of all people living in Belgium found that young people aged between 16 to 25 were most affected, according to De Morgen, which viewed the documents.

“Children, adolescents, and students are in full development and therefore need contact with peers. That is why we must think of young people first and foremost when taking measures,” said Flemish Minister of Youth Benjamin Dalle, who was not surprised by the findings.

According to the report, there is a clear increase in anxiety disorders among 18- to 24-year-olds, whilst 44% of 10- to 18-year-olds reported a slight increase in feelings linked to depression.

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For 33%, this has increased significantly, one study found, however, it is difficult to understand to what extent this actually translates into depression, Professor of Occupational Medicine Lode Godderis who leads the Great Coronavirus Study said.

“We undertook many questionnaires that show how people feel, but they say nothing about the occurrence of psychological problems. There are only indications, such as long waiting lists in psychiatry,” Godderis told De Morgen.

His study also found a big difference between students and non-students aged 16 to 25, emphasising that “the latter group draws meaning and social contacts from the workplace, while students just see that disappear.”

The UGent Motivation Barometer found that, during this crisis, 18- to 35-year-olds haven’t been able to fulfil their psychological needs, including connectedness, autonomy, and belief in their own abilities, compared to other population groups.

During last Friday’s Consultative Committee, many of the relaxations made focused on younger age groups, as the government decided to allow more outdoor activities in organised youth work and sports, and promised more contact education for primary and secondary school pupils.

The Flemish government is providing extra support and reinforcement to children and young people in various policy areas to counterbalance the negative impact of the lockdown and the coronavirus measures on their psychological health, it announced on Wednesday.

“The corona crisis is damaging our children and young people very badly. We have to make sure that this does not have a lasting negative impact on a growing generation,” said Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times