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Staying hopeful in a pandemic: a photo essay

As well as having their studies disrupted, many young people have had to deal with mental health struggles, losing loved ones, family job losses. What's remarkable is how they adapt and take control of their situation even when surrounded by so much uncertainty and change. 



close of right side of face of teenager with earring

Csarina, 19

During lockdown, I found it really hard to stay within myself because I'm a really social person. If it wasn't for my friends, I think I would have struggled a lot more than I did.

Never underestimate the bonds of people you're with. It sounds really corny, but I think that inherently people want to be with other people.

I also like to draw a lot, but during lockdown I found it hard to even pick up a pen. Because I wasn't able to go outside, I found my ideas became very dry. But then seeing the stuff people did online, like choirs and musicals, made me realise I could still do something at home. I wasn't cooped up doing nothing all the time. 

young girl sitting outside in park looking at camera

it's not
going to
be like this
it's not always going to be like this

– Cristina, 19

Cristina, 19

During the pandemic we’ve had a lot of time to ourselves and I’ve been trying to use that time to improve on things that I want to learn. It's kind of time for myself - I don't think we have that a lot and I think we should take advantage of it, obviously there are negatives to that as well.

One thing that I always like to tell myself when I’m struggling is that it’s not always going to be like this, things do change.

If you do need help, always seek help and don't be ashamed to do so.

I feel like I’m still very young. I’m still trying to figure out what my goal is and that's ok. You don't need to know exactly what you’re doing and I think the world is full of options. It’s good for us to be aware of that and you can do anything you put your mind to. I'd like to make a positive difference in the world, make an impact in something that I’m passionate about. 


young man wearing black fisherman beanie looking slightly off camera

Filip, 20

This year has been pretty hard to stay positive. But personally, I've been trying to stay grateful I guess.

When lockdown hit, I entered this state of mind that was really negative. Things weren't going the way I planned so it really affected my work life and my mental health. But I had this realisation that there are people out there to help me. 

It's hard to constantly need to adapt to different limitations and rules but I guess lockdown taught me that I could adapt. I started to run which has helped my mental health a lot.

It's important to help your friends too. If you see someone struggling, just be there for them because that stuff can take them really far.


young woman looking at camera, sun on face

Jamila, 19

It's been a difficult year. Mentally I wasn’t feeling good and I was struggling to stay motivated. I would wake up at 4pm. I didn't really have a routine, I wasn’t eating properly, it was really hard.

I’ve found that even just taking walks and learning to be alone and become friends with myself has really helped. That being said, I really miss socialising. I take any chance I get to see friends. If you're feeling lonely and depressed and sad, chances are that somebody else is and you know you can do it together.

I also started knitting and you know it was fun!

It kept me busy, kept my mind off things, got me off social media for a while. I have like zero self control so I’ll be on social media for hours, like why am i wasting seven hours of my day just scrolling? It was really detrimental to my mental health. 

So uninstalling has really helped. I recommend everyone try it even for like one day a week cause it really helps and when you realise how much time you have to do stuff in the day, it’s so crazy.

young woman sitting back to green leafy bush

so much
things have changed so much

Emem, 20

Our foundation year ended quite abruptly so it was hard to keep continuing and producing work. Also, my Granny passed away so that was quite hard to deal with but then I sort of used a project to try and help deal with my emotions around her passing. 

I guess this feeling of isolation has been quite hard but I think if you talk to your friends like go on the phone with them not just text them, like make sure you actually hear their voice I think that’s quite important.

I personally do find it hard to open up about things but when I do, I always feel a lot better about it so you know try to open up. Also, find something that is not pressure based that you can do to relax. Crochet is definitely something like that. I would say knitting as well but I think knitting is a bit more stressful! 


young woman sitting on bandstand in brown coat

We'll definitely see better days, we'll adapt and things will improve We'll definitely see better days, we'll adapt and things will improve

– Evita, 20

Shamim, 19

It hasn't been easy, but just practising mindfulness and appreciating all the small things, you know, having a roof over your head. This pandemic has gone to show how many things you can lose so easily.

My mum lost her job during the pandemic. So that was quite hard. I had to support my mum. Mum eventually found another job, but those first couple of months of the lockdown in March were really tough because your world is kind of thrown in the opposite way. And there were a lot of things that you didn't know.

But eventually it got better, we all pulled through.

I would love to work in film actually, hopefully, if I finish my degree, get an internship. That would be great. But I'm open to anything really so I’ll just see where it takes me.


Young woman sitting on chair in middle of road, white jumper, looking at camera


Photographs by Anselm Ebulue