COVID has caused major upheaval and trauma in the world over the last 10 months and this Irish final year high school student feels let down by Ireland's government and the country's mental health system.
It’s funny how these things work, I never knew how resilient and how politically inclined I was until I was failed by my government. Because that’s the truth of it, we were failed. The sixth years this year were forgotten about.
I am one of the lucky ones, my parents thankfully are able to work from home so they can mind my younger brother while I study with the laptop that I, fortunately, have access to. But that is not the reality for the majority.
For most people, the digital divide is all too real, so is depression and the extremely lacking mental health system in this country. Even before the schools closed, sixth years struggled with their mental health more than they have in other years.
I remember going to the bathroom one morning and I found a girl crying in a stall, I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she was terrified to be in school because her Dad was in the extremely high-risk category. At this point, there were thousands of cases day and she knew if she caught the virus, her dad would have to be hospitalized. Of course, there are hundreds of more stories just like this one.
Sometimes the media can portray teenagers as cold, selfish creatures but we do have hearts. We worry about our parents, our grandparents, our friends’ parents. This is not a worry an 18-year-old should have. Believe me, I would love to be stressing out about whether or not I know my Sraith Pictiurs properly but the Leaving Cert has been the last thing on my mind the past few months.
I have struggled with my mental health more than ever, it seems to be increasingly difficult to find hope in the future. I do not want this to be a pity party. We sixth years don’t want to be seen as victims, we just want our struggles to be recognized, in other words, we want to be seen as human beings and one’s that deserve compassion.
There is a very simple solution to the problem of the rapidly decreasing mental health among sixth years, to the constant fear and anxiety, and most of all, the uncertainty. According to the latest update of the petition to make predicted grades [calculated from previous work and examines by the government body] an option for leaving cert students, over 30k people have signed it, according to a TheJournal.ie poll, over 50% of people think the traditional leaving cert should be canceled.
We are not lazy, we are not trying to take advantage of this terrible situation, we are simply absolutely exhausted from trying to keep our families safe, from trying to play a constant game of catch up from all the curriculum we have missed. From trying not to pity ourselves even though there are so many memories and rites of passage we have missed out on (and let me tell you, there is nothing more depressing than an 18th birthday over Zoom) but mostly, we are exhausted from trying to get our voices heard and being constantly ignored by a government that claims it cares about our mental health.
I wish everyone could see how strong my peers are, I wish they could see the way they have home-schooled their younger siblings because their parents are frontline workers, I wish you could see the lovely messages we send each other when we are anxious or depressed, how we put on a brave face because we don’t want stress our parents out even more. We are people. And we are asking for help.
Please, please provide us with clarity and peace of mind and implement calculated grades.
* Libby is a sixth-year student and emerging writer in Waterford. Alongside activism and creative writing, she is an obsessive tea drinker. You can find her on Twitter @libbymarchant1 or on Instagram @libby.marchant.