MORE than a year thrown away, burned. No parties or outings with the party. No trip without family to discover the world. No school and university. The word adventure seems to have been deleted. Just long lessons on the computer in your bedroom and a few walks in groups of two or at most three. Adolescence is a complicated period of life because, in the balance between childhood and adulthood, children are impatient, insecure and often unhappy. But the epidemic has complicated things, depriving them of that freedom and that space, outside their homes, where they can live new experiences. Today teenagers seem even more in crisis and, in recent months, the admissions of adolescents to psychiatry wards have increased. Suicide attempts, cases of self-harm, but also panic attacks and diseases related to depression are on the rise. The fault of the coronavirus but also of choices that have relegated the boys within the walls of the house. Yet, according to the dean of psychiatry in Italy Eugenio Borgna (who wrote ‘The fragile passions’ on these issues), it will be this ‘burnt youth’ for a tiring year to find the way out of the pandemic.
Professor Borgna why today more and more teenagers are sick?
“The admissions of adolescents to psychiatry services, and their suicide attempts, as well as anxious and depressive pathologies, have been determined, I would say, by the loneliness to which they have been subjected by the pandemic, and at least sometimes by the family conditions of life, which did not allow the days spent at home to be filled with meaning. But I could not say how the pandemic has recreated dramatic social inequalities that have been reflected in the lives of adolescents. It is one thing to have spent it in homes, which allow for spaces of autonomy and creative loneliness, and an account in homes that do not allow them. The habitual social conditioning of mental suffering has been cruelly dilated by the pandemic. These are things that social psychiatry knows well, but which alone will never be able to resolve. Political choices are at stake. “.
Eating disorders during the pandemic also increased by 30%. And addictions are also more prevalent than ever among teenagers. Why?
“Eating disorders have grown as a consequence of states of anxiety and insecurity, and also of rebellion against the isolation to which one is obliged. Addictions are a consequence of boredom, of monotonous days, which are always repeated the same. initials are those of the loss of interest in things, being stuck on television and the Internet “.
In large urban centers, where with the closure of schools and sports centers, children have suffered more. Difficult for them to deal with loneliness
“In big cities and in the extreme peripheries, loneliness is much more painful, and difficult to bear, than in small cities, where we know and help each other, and shared loneliness is radically different from isolation, which is a disfigured image of it “.
Why did so many of them feel alone in the family? Did the adults have to explain to the young people more what was happening?
“Loneliness has made the problem of communication in families re-emerge. If we don’t talk, if there is no dialogue, we end up leaving the house and meeting with friends, without any prudence”.
Many young people have paid little attention to safety regulations, almost denying the danger of the virus. The places of the so-called ‘movida’ have filled up beyond belief. Others, on the other hand, fear the virus excessively. Because?
“Each of us, especially if we are young, reacts to situations in radically different ways to the extent that we have or do not have, friendships and interests, ability to listen and sensitivity, awareness of good and evil. But then they enter into I play the personal dispositions to give meaning to life, even in the time of a painful loneliness, and also, and perhaps above all, family relationships enter. Fearing the virus is necessary, exaggerating this fear makes one feel bad, but the anxiety and fragility lead us to do so, without running into dangers, which instead lie for oneself and for others, when one comes together in a group: risking even fatal contagions “.
The individualistic society in which we live makes wisdom something difficult to achieve. We want it all now and now. Has Covid given us a lesson?
“The pandemic has taught us unexpected things: that in particular that we are saved, when we are in danger, in great danger, only when we help each other, and when we have patience and human solidarity. The pandemic has demonstrated the défaillance and the defeat of the individualistic society “.
The boys often saw death up close during the pandemic for the first time. A taboo for our society. Images of closeness to death have a strong impact on adolescence
“Yes, the pandemic has made adolescents aware of the presence and proximity of death, which appeared suddenly, without anything letting it foresee. An experience, this, which opened bleeding wounds of the soul, which were at the basis of acts of aggression, and self-aggression “.
You are the son of a partisan and faced the harshness of war. Young people today sometimes appear ‘fragile’. Can frailty be healed or should we just face and learn to manage it?
“Fragility is not a disease, it is a disposition of the soul, which helps us to better understand the sufferings: ours, and those of others. One does not heal one’s frailties, but it is necessary, as you say very well, to know them, give them meaning, and manage them “.
Adults need to make up for time to listen to their children. Sometimes not all of the malaise and psychological life of children can be understood, but we must support them. How to follow them from a distance at a time when they don’t want interference?
“Listening to your children, identifying with their expectations and fears, in their rebellions and hopes, in their fatigue of living, and in their frailties. If this happens, adolescents feel understood and helped, as well as the being educated from a distance may not be difficult. “
You say that adolescence is the most fragile age, but also the most endowed with creative resources that we have more or less forgotten. Only the heart allows us to survive painful trials such as those experienced in the pandemic. Do you trust the boys?
“Adolescence is the most fragile age of life, but, as you say, it is the most gifted with creative resources. In the meetings I had with young people from secondary schools, I was always impressed by the culture, by Leopardi’s passion for hope. , from the expressive abilities, and from the kindness of soul, which animate their lives. Yes, they deserve great trust: they have extraordinary gifts of courage and enthusiasm, which adults have lost “.
“As I said, creative resources are sparkling and original in adolescence, inclined to rediscover the great revolutionary thematic horizons of technologies”.
They will be able to build a future in this world that scares us adults so much. A world we don’t recognize?
“In the brilliant interpretation given by Saint Augustine, hope is the memory of the future: meaning, by this, that adolescent experiences influence our way of living the future. The responsibility of adults in education is incalculable. and in the training of adolescents: which today is even more difficult, but obviously necessary “.
How to involve young people, make them understand the rules and give them perspectives?
“It is not possible for me to answer this last beautiful question except by saying that today’s adolescents, like those of yesterday, need words, of course, but above all, ardent and generous testimonies of listening and solidarity, understanding and hope. , to which adults are called in all circumstances “.
“We have the feeling that we have wasted a year. But the vaccine gives us hope for the future”
by Valeria Pini