Tuesday 12 April 2022: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that his biggest Easter wish this year is for young people to have the courage to say ‘no’ to any negative influence in their lives, from social media bullying to any form of disrespect.
In an open letter, written after a series of scheduled conversations with young people over recent weeks, Bishop Leahy said that a storm has descended on young people. COVID, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, concerns about the war on Ukraine, the ongoing destructiveness of social media and the accommodation crisis has brought many young people to an emotional brink.
Bishop Leahy said that despite a sense that COVID has passed, there are still a lot of things in our world that cause social anxiety, including vulnerability of older relations.
The violent death of Ashling Murphy, he said, has engendered a fear in young women; for young men there’s the challenge of watching out for and calling out disrespectful behaviour.
“And there’s the courage to say no to bullying of any kind, including online bullying,” he said.
“It’s also a very courageous move to say no to ‘online’ in its entirety, to social media. There’s a friend of mine who says that he doesn’t walk away from anything that’s negative in his life, he sprints. So, by that token, if social media is bringing negativity to your life, leave it behind you. If people are true friends, they will have your phone number.
“Social media is a double edge sword and the sharpest side cuts deep. We have seen this so many times with young people being overwhelmed by online vitriol. If we hear something on radio that we dislike, we switch channel or turn it off. Do the same with Social Media if it’s causing you problems.”
Young adults today also acknowledge the pervasiveness of illegal drugs and the pernicious challenge of drink-spiking, an action that seems to be quite prevalent, he said. “More recently, young people’s social anxiety has increased further as they face pressures to do with the cost of living and accommodation difficulties. Then there’s the desperate spectre of the war in Ukraine with refugees arriving in great numbers in Ireland has cast a gloomy shadow over us all.
"We imagine the plight and trauma of families, mothers and children. Young adults realise young people of their age, men and women, have been called to war. We all feel threatened by how war can so easily escalate in a way we’d have never foreseen possible in Europe.”
Bishop Leahy, however, urged young people to open up to issues, not least of they are feeling anxious and said we need look no further than US Masters champion Scottie Scheffler in how he overcame the weight of the pressure he felt on Sunday morning.
“Yesterday (Monday) he spoke about being almost overwhelmed the morning of the final round, breaking down in tears, talking about not being ready ‘for this’. Like so many of us he turned to an ally for support, his wife Meredith, who asked, ‘who are you to say you are not ready’. They then talked about God’s will. ‘God is in control and the Lord is leading me. And if today is my time, then it’s my time’, he said. Peace and calm can come in troubled waters if you put your faith in those closest to you and in God.”