Last year, Freemasons across England and Wales rose to the challenge of raising £1 million for the Freemasons’ COVID-19 Community Fund, as a response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.
After merely 16 weeks this target was not only met, but exceeded, and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) delivered on its promise of matching every pound of that £1 million goal, taking the total fund to over £2 million.
Since then, the MCF has been working in partnership with Provinces to identify vulnerable communities worst hit by the crisis and as a result, The Freemasons’ COVID-19 Community Fund has focused on supporting three core areas of society: the homeless and vulnerably-housed community, unpaid carers, and most recently announced, children and young people struggling with their mental health.
What is ‘mental health’?
Good mental health is a person’s ability to think, feel and react in ways that are needed to live a stable and balanced lifestyle. Poor mental health sees an individual experience difficult thoughts, feelings and reactions which may reach a point at which they are unable to cope. It’s important to acknowledge that these can be just as hard to manage as physical illnesses.
Impact of COVID-19 on young people’s mental health
A December 2020 report by Public Health England showed that there had been significant changes in population mental health and wellbeing, with stress, depression and anxiety peaking for adults in April 2020.
For some children and young people, social distancing and the ‘stay at home’ instruction appears to have increased emotional, behavioural and restlessness or attention difficulties, as well as anxiety and depression.
Sadly, in April 2020 almost half of 16 – 24 year olds surveyed showed new symptoms of psychological distress and also reported an increase in anxiety over the summer months, when anxiety in surveyed adults appeared to reduce.
Only 27 per cent of children and young people had had a one-to-one session with a teacher in which they were asked about their wellbeing, whilst almost a quarter of respondents – 23 per cent – said there was less mental health support from their school in comparison to before the pandemic.
In response to these troubling finds, the MCF has focused its third round of funding from the Freemasons’ COVID-19 Community Fund on supporting charities tackling poor mental health in young people.
Applications from charities seeking support have now closed and the MCF charity grants team and committee are reviewing each and every application received. From befriending services, to peer support groups, to arts therapy – the MCF is hoping to fund a wide range of projects and services on behalf of Freemasonry, which will help our young people recover from an incredibly difficult year.