Olivia Giles Sixth Form student

Experiencing anxiety and uncertainty in the pandemic: the story of a sixth form student coping with the unsettling uncertainty of her future.


The Coronavirus has affected us all in differing ways, with the sudden enforced lockdown sending waves of panic throughout the world. Isolation and sudden shifts in how we are living from day to day during this pandemic can cause unwelcome triggers for many individuals dealing with mental health issues and trying to cope with keeping destructive habits at bay.

Many College students have been affected by this pandemic, the A levels they were expecting to complete in May and June this year will not be commencing. Olivia Giles is one of those students, having worked for two years of her life in order to memorise and retain the information required to pass her exams; On the 19th of April Olivia stated: “The fact that I am now being graded on work that has been accumulated over the two years I have been studying and not sitting my actual exams is strange to me… I realise it’s a system of grading for results day on the 13thAugust which Is now not even being brought forward at all… it almost feels like all the work I have done has been for nothing.” Olivia addresses how her mental health has been affected by the sudden plunge into isolation: “One of the main issues for me with my mental health Is that I suffer quite severely with anxiety and bouts of panic attacks when I feel I’m not in control. I know that since I have been confined to my house, I have experienced these symptoms again and found myself overthinking a lot and becoming increasingly restless and worrying in regard to my future and what it holds.”  Olivia addresses how much her schooling has meant to her: “ I am an academic scholar and it has taken so much hard work and time out of my life in order to have the opportunity to attend my school and I know how much hard work my parents have had to endure in order to support me throughout my private education over the years. I think this is quite an intense source of guilt and frustration for me because I know they have given up so much for me in the process of my schooling. My parents choosing to privately educate me is something I will always be grateful for…” Olivia also stated: “My older sister and cousin having already completed their exams and I feel like now I will always have something to prove.. for me this contributes to feeling a sense of  inferiority and also mentally I think these feelings are only amplified by being at home and being around the people I feel this way about…”

Olivia reflects on the time that the news was revealed to her that her exams would not take place “I still remember when Boris Johnson announced it on the television, our teachers were completely speechless. We were all sitting in the common room…. our entire year group. We had decided to all sit together and watch the announcement.” She recalls her reaction at the time: “We were in a state of shock and confusion. It was completely surreal. The way he announced it at first he just touched on the subject really briefly…  and there was no real expansion on what he was saying… the information he provided left us all feeling slightly hopeless really” Olivia expands further on what state her mental health has been in as the instability of the situation has progressed: “I think something that’s really been a big thing for me is I really was aiming for the top possible grades I could get, and now even if I get the grades no one will really actually understand how hard I’ve worked. There is a chance I may never get the A*S I deserve… and I don’t think the way we are being graded is a true reflection of all my hard work.” If students like Olivia are unhappy with the grades they are given they still have the chance to sit them again in October or November. She continues “ The difficulty of getting adjusted back into the mindset of work and exams is one thing… but if we choose to sit the exams we won’t be as prepped as we would have been initially with the build-up of 5 months of school plus having the experience of our mocks.” Olivia said: ‘the sudden lack of contact with the people I have seen every day in such close proximity at college has also really affected me with mental health, the transition of losing moments of face to face contact and conversations with those people is really difficult,’ Olivia states: “I  am trying to be there for anyone who is my age and feeling overwhelmed or anxious right now and to let them know that we are all feeling the same, we just need to support each other in any way that we can and we will pull through this we just have to be patient.”