It’s time to celebrate the incredible resilience young people have shown in the pandemic

As a consultant paediatrician, Dr Katie Malbon sees the amazing resilience and positivity young people often show in coping with chronic illness. But with the pandemic impacting the lives of young people in myriad ways, she writes about why it’s so important that we do everything we can to support their wellbeing.   

This week – 21– 27 March – is International Adolescent Health Week and the theme this year is ‘Resilience in the face of a pandemic’.

In my work as a consultant paediatrician at the Trust, I’m constantly amazed by the ability of young people to cope in the face of adversity. I see many young people who take on board a new diagnosis of chronic illness, start medications with horrible side-effects, manage chronic pain, and just appear to cope – sometimes better than their parents do.

I often reflect on how I would manage in a similar situation. The answer, I think, is that I would struggle.

But young people are amazing and should be celebrated. Two weeks ago, I was involved in organising a wellbeing Q&A webinar for young people, where I was also a panellist. The webinar was hosted by local youth groups and consisted of a 30-minute question-and-answer forum with panellists from health, mental health (Kooth and clinical psychologists), careers advice, and even poetry from the Trust’s poet in residence, Keith Jarrett. I was struck by the upbeat nature of the session. The hosts played music as the participants gathered. One of the young people in attendance, Imaan Abdi, had written a poem, which she read aloud to kick off the event – and which you can read  at the bottom or listen to here:

The event’s co-hosts from Young Healthwatch Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Youth Forum were upbeat and full of positivity, despite our current pandemic. So much so that it feels almost unbelievable that the discussion centred on difficult subjects like the wearing of face masks, social distancing, online tours of universities and other events which would normally – and ideally – happen in the real world.

Despite the positivity, though, I came away with a feeling of great sadness. These young people are missing out on the rights of passage many of us took for granted. They should be hanging out together, beginning relationships, hugging, kissing, singing, dancing, sharing – that’s what normal teenage years are all about. And yet they are fearful and face uncertainty on so many levels.

The iAHW team wearing lime green on a Big Room virtual meeting

So, this week especially, we need to celebrate young people. It is an opportunity to think about how we can give time to our young people; how we can make their lives that little bit better, how we can encourage others to ensure young people are treated respectfully and understood more. So this week, please consider celebrating young people by wearing something lime green and share resources and helpful information, which will make a difference to young people, especially during this difficult time.

Watch a video about this year’s Adolescent Health Week

Read more about what we’re doing to support children and young people at the Trust 

Poem written for the Youth Wellbeing Question Time event

By Imaan Abdi

A single streetlamp illuminates a dark street

The ghost of past footfalls echo silently on the wind,

A city of light darkened.

In their dwellings, people rest fitfully

Entrapped by the mundane of our survival.

Invisible strands of starlight weave between the hearths

Entwining restless souls

The earth a still orb in its ceaseless canopy

Its very heartbeat slowing to the

rhythm of a gentle stream

The moon stares on at its far removed twin

A mix of chaos and art

Silence. S i l e n c e. S i l e n c e

The morning comes

Bringing joy

Reconnecting what was lost

Rejuvenating the old

Water thickens to blood.

Communities strengthened by the abundance of time

Light in the darkness 

Peace in the troubles