Social distancing and lockdowns have taken a huge, if often unacknowledged mental toll on Lithuania's youth, a survey has shown.
The quarantine in Lithuania, which lasted from March 16 until June 17, had the greatest negative impact on the 18 to 29-year-olds, according to a study by the research company Baltic Surveys.
This age group experienced the highest levels of stress, sadness, and anger, Lithuania’s Agency of International Youth Cooperation (JTBA) said in a press release.
“Young people had less experience in emotionally dealing with so-called shock situations,” Rasa Ališauskienė, head of Baltic Surveys, said. “They also had less financial and professional stability.”
Most were faced with uncertainty about the future and employment, limited learning opportunities, and lack of social interactions.
According to Jonas Laniauskas, head of the Youth Affairs Department at the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, young people have also been severely affected by reduced leisure opportunities.
“We saw situations when due to conflicts at home, lack of socialisation, and boredom, some young people ran away from home and did not comply with self-isolation requirements,” Laniauskas said.
“During the pandemic, many young people have also lost their jobs and income. […] Given this, it has become clear that the youth were also the risk group in the pandemic,” he added.
The global health crisis has also limited international youth mobility opportunities, including studies, internships, and volunteering abroad.
International mobility programmes curtailed by the pandemic were among the best ways to learn, become independent, and gain experience and skills for young people, the JTBA said.
“We close and distance ourselves from each other […]. But for a young developing person, such a closure can be a very big loss,” said Guoda Lomanaitė, director of the JTBA.
According to experts, the pandemic has highlighted the need for making psychological help more accessible to young people.
“It is necessary to strengthen services that work regularly with young people and that they are already familiar with,” Laniauskas said.
In response to the pandemic, the Youth Affairs Department, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, has put together a plan to make psychological consultations available in 40 youth centres across Lithuania.
The department will also provide specialists working with young people with additional help and training.