Together in Spirit: A video to support social distancing among young people in the UK

In the UK, survey research in the first few weeks of lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic found that nearly a quarter of young people in their late teens and early twenties were finding it extremely difficult to cope with social distancing measures – and more expected it to become extremely difficult as the weeks wore on. Research among young people aged 13-24 reported in early May, found that worry about loved ones was up among more than half of participants and that nearly half felt significantly more anxious than before the lockdown, with levels of anxiety and depression highest among participants identifying as black or mixed race.

Looking to support young people in the UK through their experience of social distancing, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine researchers partnered with Brickwall, a London-based creative agency, to create Together in Spirit, a short video featuring young people from around the UK. In self-shot videos and in their own words, participants share their motivations for social distancing, what’s been most difficult and their strategies for coping. Rooted in behaviour change theory, the video makes visible the lengths that young people are going to in order to do their part to reduce the spread of the virus and protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.

In the context of a rapidly moving pandemic and the urgency of flattening the curve in the UK, the project had by necessity a quick turn-around, with just around a week to collect submissions. We were overwhelmed by the honest, touching videos that were sent in. Teens and young adults share their worries and the difficulties they face as they are separated from friends, loved ones and teachers; as A-levels are cancelled; as their lives change drastically and they long for the pleasures and reassurances of their pre-pandemic lives. One participant, a mental health activist and campaigner against “detox teas” that played a role in her past experience with eating disorders, shares the difficulties of less availability of the “safe foods” on which she relies. Another shares worry for her mother, a frontline nurse – worry which is exacerbated by the stark figures showing disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on black and ethnic minority groups in the UK.

From concerns about their own health vulnerabilities and a commitment to protecting others, to a desire to get it right in order to return to “normal” as quickly as possible, participants candidly share why they are social distancing, and the confidence that their communities are strong enough to carry on. And from innovative uses of technology to innovative uses of their back gardens for impromptu, therapeutic dancing, they share the strategies they are using to cope – and display inspiring resilience in this uncertain time.

During this crucial phase of lockdown in the UK – as restrictions begin to ease and we all must learn how to navigate the “new normal” – a commitment to following the guidelines will be crucial to avoiding a second peak of the virus. By sharing their stories, the teens and young adults in this video acknowledge and validate the challenges many are facing; show us that it can be done; and crucially, remind their peers who are struggling that they are not alone.

Children and adolescents
All disorders
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