I ❤️ Revy
Of all the decades in life, the 20s are a time of discovery, exploration, and most of all, possibility. Like many young people living in Revelstoke, 22-year old Rebecca Martin graduated from university in Ontario and headed West in what was meant to be the beginning of a new chapter in life – the world was her oyster. In the Spring of 2020 however, that oyster was snapped shut when the spread of COVID-19 led to a state of global chaos and lock down.
While no one has escaped the effects of the pandemic, results from Revelstoke’s Well-Being Survey show that this time has been especially difficult for young people, who were at this opening phase of life, and who now find themselves aimless and uncertain what they can even build.
“I graduated from university in biology last spring, and expected all this freedom with my career ahead,” Martin said. “Then the pandemic hit, and any sense of a future and freedom I had, was lost.”
While it forced her to think outside the box and get outside of her comfort zone, the stress and impact on her mental health has been difficult.
“I have this big dream that I want to do, but getting there just got harder and less certain… and I don’t even have kids to feed or a house to look after, but now any of that feels unattainable.”
|This shows what words were most often chosen to explain how they were feeling, by respondents under 25 years old who completed Revelstoke’s Community Well-being Survey in the fall of 2020. (Contributed)|
Like many in her age group here in town, she earns a basic income from multiple employers in order to make ends meet, and lives in a house with five other roommates to help share the rent.
Until recently, her main source of income had been serving at a restaurant. For her, that alone was a stressor.
“Knowing that I could go to work and bring COVID-19 back to the housemates who would then spread it to their networks was stressful.”
In Martin’s case however, this was compounded by the fact that she was also care-taking for a vulnerable, immune compromised individual but heavily reliant on her serving income.
“It’s my lifeline because serving is also one of the only jobs I can get here.”
She felt torn, constantly juggling the need for income and the fear and responsibility over spreading the virus to someone who could die as a result of exposure.
While Martin’s dilemma is somewhat unusual, results from the Well-Being Survey show that other than single mothers, young people between the ages of 15-25 have been the most impacted.
This is because young people are being challenged on multiple fronts, according to Erin Maclachlan, Co-Director of Community Outreach and Development at Community Connections. They may have the least amount of obligations, but they are typically the ones in entry-level and service positions whose hours and work were cut. Many are also living in crowded homes, often with university debt to pay and no extended benefits such as medical/dental. According to Machlachlan, this can ultimately lead to a diminished sense of belonging to a community.
As an extrovert in a highly peer-driven life phase, the isolation has also been a major challenge. While technology has allowed Martin to stay connected with friends, it has also felt isolating.
“It’s been a struggle to connect with people the same way,” she said. “We’re lucky to have all of this technology to keep us connected, but it’s not the same and you’re still left with this feeling of being boxed in and what you’re supposed to do with your life, and how you will make money, and all of your insecurities come up to the surface.”
Mental health supports were a lifesaver
Fortunately, Martin was able to access help from one of the local counsellors in town.
“In terms of mental health, that was the best thing that I did,” she says. “It was super helpful to be able to talk to a trained professional and have someone walk me through it all, and recognize that my concerns are normal and valid.”
Martin was able to seek help, but for some, even accessing help can be a challenge. The survey also showed that one out of every five people in Revelstoke doesn’t know who to contact if they need help.
Ultimately, Martin has managed to see the silver linings.
“When I think of how it has affected me personally, I have to remind myself of how lucky I am to be where I am,” she said.
She is grateful for the access to the outdoors and friendly community, but there’s only so much playing outside one can do before one comes face to face with all the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. “I think the pandemic has pushed me to find different ways of living and growing and being a person.”
I ❤️ Revy is a collaborative well-being initiative by the City of Revelstoke’s Recovery Task force. This is the second in a series of articles. Together, the I ❤️ Revy team hopes to build community resilience by sharing information, tips, tools, and stories. Contributors are: Taha Attiah, Lisa Cyr, Jocelyn Doll, Benjamin Dorsey, Simon Hunt, Myles Williamson, and Sarah Windsor.
To join the conversation go to talkrevelstoke.ca/i-heart-revy