Making A Difference
Research has evidenced the impact of the pandemic has on the mental wellbeing of young people, with almost a third of teenagers experiencing heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression in the UK's second lockdown. The research suggests that 67% of young people expecting the pandemic to have a long-term negative impact on their mental wellbeing.
Young people throughout the country have been impacted by the pandemic. Social distancing restrictions brought in to reduce the spread of Covid-19 meant that many young people weren't able to see their friends, attend in-person education, or interact with people from outside of their homes. There was great uncertainty around exams and results, and many young people have experienced heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Research from the Mental Health Foundation and Swansea University found that 27% of British teenagers reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge most days in the second national lockdown.
The evidence so far suggests that the pandemic has had an impact on young people's mental health. According to recent data from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, almost 400,000 young people sought specialist help for mental health problems in 2020 – a rise of 28% from 2019.
Figures like these that have made Bernie even more determined to make a difference. An avid supporter of mental health charities and initiatives, his latest campaign will see him raise funds and awareness for Samaritans, which provides emotional support for anyone who is experiencing distress or struggling to cope, 24 hours a day. For so many people, a reassuring voice at the end of the phone, with no judgment or pressure, can prove to be life-changing.
Samaritans' research reveals the profound impact of the pandemic on the nation's mental health as the charity reports that over a fifth of the calls for help to Samaritans have referenced coronavirus in the past year, although Samaritans' volunteers indicate that the pandemic has affected all callers in some way. 
Over the last year Samaritans volunteers have spent over one million hours listening to people struggling to cope. Samaritans supported people finding things difficult over 1.7 million times between March and December 2020.
Samaritans research suggests that more young people may be struggling as a result of the pandemic. In conversations with young people, four key themes have emerged since restrictions were imposed. These are loss of coping mechanisms, lack of peer contact, negativity and uncertainty about future work and education, and worsening mental wellbeing are the four key themes emerging from calls from young people to the service. 
Many young people are admitting to anxiety and depression, exacerbated now by the pandemic. Some mention self-harming. Issues around doing the best by their parents are also exacerbated by the pandemic now.Samaritans Listening Volunteer
Despite seeing a 30% reduction in volunteer workforce at the start of the first lockdown due to shielding restrictions, Samaritans has maintained a 24/7 service throughout the pandemic as a result of the incredible efforts and dedication of Samaritans' volunteers.
In his challenging quest rowing solo across the Atlantic, Bernie hopes to raise vital funds for Samaritans' crucial work supporting anyone finding things tough – and by sharing his journey, his aim is to bring hope to any young people who have faced mental health difficulties, as he takes on this incredible challenge for them.
 Volunteer insights are based on 6 surveys with Samaritans listening volunteers carried out between April 2020 and January 2021. Findings of the surveys cover the period of first nine months of the coronavirus restrictions (March – December 2020). https://www.samaritans.org/news/suicide-prevention-must-be-made-a-priority-in-governments-pandemic-recovery-plan-says-samaritans/
4 May 2021