A new student-led campaign is helping to tell the unique stories behind young people’s experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

School pupils and college students in Greater Manchester – who have been returning to class in recent weeks – have told mental health professionals that the negative ways their experience of the pandemic is being discussed is adding to feelings of anxiety.

And they feel the general narrative has ignored the way many of them have coped with the challenges of the last year and a half.

Now, with the help of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, young people are beginning to tell their side of the story through the Changing the Narrative: Unmasked and Stronger Than Ever campaign.

Local teenagers are finding their voice and using art, poetry and film to share their own pandemic experiences – showing how they have developed as people, become stronger and discovered skills they didn’t know they had, while still acknowledging there have been tough times.

Students from four colleges in Wigan and Rochdale came together in May to plan the campaign and choose the name. During the day they worked alongside a videographer to create this short film.

Young people from the colleges had spent the previous weeks making art and films – about their experiences during lockdown, showing how they’d coped and what they had been able to achieve during this time.

The students’ work is now being made available to local schools and colleges on the Greater Manchester repository. It is hoped these resources will inspire others to create their own work to add to a library that will document these unusual times from a young person’s perspective.

School pupils and college students will continue adding to the platform throughout the autumn in the run up to a formal launch of the campaign at an event in November 2021.

William Powell, a student at St John Rigby College in Wigan, said:

“It has not been all the doom and gloom that you see on the six o’clock news. It’s been. for some people, quite an interesting experience – because they don’t normally get as much free time to develop personal skills.

“I’d like to think that the Covid Generation would be something that’s seen as more of a positive than a negative. And we’ll be seen as people who did have that resilience and did keep on going.”

Professor Sandeep Ranote, Interim Greater Manchester Medical Executive lead for mental health, said: 

“Throughout the pandemic a bleak picture has been painted of the situation our young people are returning to as we gradually overcome coronavirus – although for some we must recognise their worries and the challenges.

“However, that’s far from the whole story. We must not overlook the strength young people have shown, the ways in which they have been able to adapt, and how many have remained optimistic while facing previously unimagined challenges.

“We must not tell young people about their circumstances, instead we need to listen and give them the chance to tell us what they think and feel about the pandemic.

Changing the Narrative: Unmasked and Stronger than Ever does just that – it gives young people a way to tell us what the pandemic has really been like for them. If we don’t listen, we’ll miss the positives that exists alongside the challenges and our presumptions about young people will become self-fulfilling prophecies.

“This is not the generation lost in lockdown, it is the generation who learned through lockdown!”

 

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