Experiences of 2020

MSYP Takeover - Hayley Paku, Clydebank & Milngavie

My name is Hayley Paku, I am a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Chair of the West Dunbartonshire Youth Council (WDYC), a keen advocate for mental health & an aspiring politician.

The beginning of the national lockdown threw us all a blunder; shops shut, work wrecked and education ground to a halt. With the blink of an eye, life was put on hold. I consider myself very fortunate as a young person, I did not face any of the gruelling circumstances that have swallowed many whole. During the pandemic, my education was affected. - Students were put on the back burner for the sake of the nation’s health., For this I do not grudge the amount of time spent indoors. It wasn’t easy learning from home. It was hard to engage and hard to stay focused on the tasks given, but my teachers still appeared on my screen everyday with words of encouragement. I received grades that I am proud of, though I woefully underestimated the jump in difficulty from National 5 to Higher. Perhaps it would’ve been easier to handle had we experienced the full year. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that exams may not be the best indicators of a young person’s academic ability.

Throughout lockdown, I became increasingly aware of the decline of young people’s mental health. As a collective, our mental health budget is underfunded and faces cuts regularly. Little support was on offer for those who were struggling. Many charities shut over the months and many were working with very few staff members to deal with the mass increase of young people accessing these services. I was one of the campaign leads for the WDYC’s mental health campaign Small Talk. I ensured we posted a weekly flow of resources and information online for local young people for 10 weeks during lockdown. We were also able to send a mental health resource booklet to over 300 vulnerable young people as part of the Youth Alliance Summer Programme pack. On top of this we worked alongside our Youth Workers to arrange mental health training throughout Mental Health Week which seen local young people attend via Zoom. It may not be much, but if it helped at least one young person then our work was worthwhile as far as I’m concerned.

Lockdown has been hard. We have all been dealt our fair share of hardship, but if it’s taught us anything it’s that as a nation, we work better together.