We cannot believe that it has been 2 years since England went into the first lockdown. Throughout lockdown we wrote a few blogs  looking at the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people. You can check them out here and here.   

In this blog, we reflect on the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health from the mindset of young people and from a teacher’s point of view. 

Having good mental health is about feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life. So, a person’s mental health deteriorates when one or more of these 3 factors are not met. 

Finding 1: Mental health was poorer 

YoungMinds (2020) carried out research in 2020 within the first month of the new term. The research surveyed 2,011 11- to 18-year-old students who had a history of mental health needs.  

Firstly, the findings showed that 69% of the respondents felt their mental health was initially poor since returning to school. Before going back to school, 58% described their mental health as poor. This presents an increase of 11% after coming back to school. 

In the most recent State of the Nation report published by the Government, it reported that there had been significant progress made in the area of mental health for 5-24 years old, despite remaining challenges (Department for Education, 2022). The 2021 report focused on the recovery of children and young people as they returned to in-school teaching. The findings were gathered from a range of surveys but a few findings are mentioned below. 

  • The report found that children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing reduced during the pandemic especially during periods of school closures.  
  • Some surveys found evidence of an increase in loneliness-particularly in the higher age group (17 to 22) and higher rates of loneliness were experienced by girls. In fact, in secondary schools, females reported lower wellbeing across four measures of wellbeing (happiness, anxiousness, life being worthwhile, and life satisfaction) and therefore a widening of the gender gap in wellbeing scores became apparent. 
  •  The report also mentioned that there have been increased rates of physical obesity since 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 and especially in reception age groups and year 6.  

The reality as a teacher 

During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, I was a teacher and a form tutor in a secondary school.  The negative impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of the students I taught were: feelings of anxiety as to when the pandemic will be over and how their lives will alter post-pandemic, frustrations with not grasping school work, not being able to see friends and family as usual and sometimes dealing with difficult family situations or dealing with changes in living arrangements.  

Finding 2: What support was available 

The research by YoungMinds found that, 40% of respondents said that there was no school counsellor available to support students in their school (YoungMinds, 2020). On the plus side, this means 60% of respondents had access to a school counsellor of some sort.  

In the report published by the government (GOV.UK, 2022), some support measures from the lessons learned on the impact of children’s mental health during the pandemic were put in place.  These measures include extra funding for mental health providers to carry out further research or interventions for schools or young people. This funding will also allow educational institutions to train a senior mental health lead who will be able to lead the provision of mental health in their institutions. Additionally, the funding will also go to local councils who have established mental health support teams and they will continue to urgently work with schools and colleges. 

With regards to the increase in obesity rates and the decline in uptake of extra-curricular activities due to school closures, the government announced almost £30 million to go towards improving school and sport facilities as well as the improvement of the teaching of Physical education at primary level. 

The reality as a teacher

The role of the safeguarding lead or student services officer now expanded to offer mental wellbeing support when tutors could not deal with the complex issues that students were facing.

Finding 3: Few one-to-one conversations 

The research showed that, only 27% had a one-to-one conversation with a teacher or another member of staff in which they were asked about their wellbeing, by the time they completed the survey (YoungMinds, 2020).  

The reality as a teacher

Over 40% of those who felt their mental health had worsened were unable to speak to anyone within the school setting about their concerns. I worry about how they coped with returning to school with poorer mental health. As this survey is from 2019, it is hoped that students keeping issues to themselves has reduced. However, in general, the issues surrounding mental health have always been complex within the school setting and the pandemic definitely put an increased strain on an already strained area.  

While the Department of Education is working with local councils to ensure that there is increased access to mental health support, organisations such as Say It With Your Chest, are able to provide support to young people through personal development workshops. Among many benefits, it can help to improve resilience and help young people to manage their emotions more effectively.  


Department for Education, 2022. State of the Nation 2021: children and young people’s wellbeing Research report. Executive Summary. [online]. Available at: <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1052920/SoN_2021-_executive_summary_220204.pdf> 

GOV.UK, 2022. What we are doing to improve the mental health of children and young people. [online]. Available at: <https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2022/02/08/what-we-are-doing-to-improve-the-mental-health-of-children-and-young-people/> 

Merriam-Webster,. n.d. Definition of mental health. [online] Available at: <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mental%20health>. 

YoungMinds,. 2020. Schools need urgent funding to prevent mental health crisis. [online] Available at: <https://www.youngminds.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/schools-need-urgent-funding-to-prevent-mental-health-crisis/>. 

Categories: Blog