The summer holidays have started, and for some young people that might mean long, lazy days with lie-ins and hours of gaming… but not for the young people with Tyneside Outdoors! For them, the summer holidays means the chance to get outside for bigger and better full-day activities. The minibuses are booked, the routes are being planned and most of their wishes are coming true (although the young person who suggested the trip to the Alps for mountain biking might have to dream a bit smaller, at least in the short term!).
Lockdowns over the past 18 months have been tough for everyone, but they have been overwhelming for most young people. Young Minds found that 75% of young people felt this latest lockdown was harder to cope with than previous ones, with loneliness or isolation having the biggest negative impact on their mental health. Most of the young people we work with were trying to do their schoolwork from home, often whilst trying to look after siblings, share laptops or not go over their phone data allowance. They were missing out on their usual social lives, missing out on muddy bike rides and missing out on seeing each other.
We did find ways to check in with each other and to keep our spirits up. Our Temple Raiders bike group tried lots of different things over the last year or so: watching bike films together online. setting Taskmaster challenges, holding competitions to see who can get their bike the cleanest… and then who can get it muddiest again the following week! We kept the conversation going during the week through social media group chats, sharing photos and ‘liking’ every achievement, however small. I loved scrolling through those conversations and seeing how the group supported every member (I had to scroll because it turns out I check my messages MUCH less often than a 14 year old and usually had tens of messages to catch up on by the time I went back to the chat!).
Our staff team kept themselves busy too, making business plans, social media campaigns and crunching numbers for future fundraising ideas. I joined a youth work course, focusing on what was possible during a pandemic. We saw the faces of our lovely trustees on screen, as we haven’t been able to have a face to face meeting for as long as we can remember. The team even got bigger, as new volunteers and trustees joined us and had to just put their trust in us when we described what we normally do!
But now restrictions have eased, school bubbles have ended and Tyneside Outdoors is officially back in action. In recent months we’ve been able to meet up with young people in socially-distanced groups and test our brains with remembering the rules of all the games we used to play: tennis, barmy badminton, ‘fugby’ (football rules, rugby ball) and more. Our Temple Raiders group have been busy working on a long list of bike repairs and maintenance tasks that built up during lockdown, but we have been pumping up those tyres and indexing gears with smiles on our faces because we are, finally, back together and getting outdoors.
Young Minds, Coronavirus: Impact on Young People with Mental Health Needs, Survey 4: February 2021 https://youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports/coronavirus-impact-on-young-people-with-mental-health-needs/#covid-19-january-2021-survey