We know COVID-19 is impacting young people and their families, but there is also hope for the future As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we're seeing the damaging impacts lockdowns and uncertainty are having and will continue to have on young...
We know COVID-19 is impacting young people and their families, but there is also hope for the future
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we’re seeing the damaging impacts lockdowns and uncertainty are having and will continue to have on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
We’ve spent some time going through the current research and looking at our own programs to provide you with our insight, tips and thoughts on what is happening.
Some of the alarming data coming from NSW, is showing that emergency department visits resulting from mental health presentations in those under 18 is up 26%. To July 2021, there has been a 31% increase in the number of young people visiting emergency departments due to self-harm and suicide ideation, compared to the same time last year (a staggering 49% increase on 2019).
In VIC, by the end of May this year, the increase for such admissions is up 88%.
A survey of Headspace service users showed that 74% experienced worsened mental health since the onset of the pandemic, and 86% reported negative effects on their wellbeing, mood and sleeping habits.
What we’re seeing at Raise
Having worked directly with almost 2000 teens aged 13 -15 across Australia this year, we’re seeing these impacts firsthand.
In states and regions experiencing COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, we’re seeing significant reductions in engagement of our mentees. Our Program Counsellors have also reported that students are displaying significantly lower moods and increased fatigue.
Similar trends have been reported by the schools that host our programs. School staff in locked down regions are battling student disengagement and poor attendance in general. Some schools have observed an increase in cyber bullying due to the shift to online learning.
Problems with technology are particularly rife in rural and regional areas as well as access to technology in disadvantaged and large households. These factors are compounding the disadvantage these students already face.
The young people in Australia are exhibiting a range of emotions, problems and changed behaviour reflected in the word cloud below:
How Raise is part of the solution
Now more than ever young people in Australia need your help. More than half of mental health struggles begin before the age of 14 (Colizzi, Lasalvia & Ruggeri, 2020), so solutions that get in early and support young people at the right time are critical. Our mentoring program is designed to do just that.
We know through evaluation that Raise mentoring helps young people and leads to positive impact in the areas that will help young people navigate the impact of COVID-19 disruptions
Help seeking – Young people have more capability in asking for help, knowing where to seek help and a stronger likelihood of accepting help through mentoring
Hope – With higher levels of hope, young people improve socially and academically. Hope is a buffer against suicide ideation.
Resilience – Mentoring improves a young person’s ability to bounce back after stress and enhances recovery.
School belonging– when young people value education, their social and physical wellbeing increases as well as their academic achievement
Relationships – Stronger relationships with family, friends and teachers promote self-esteem, belonging and social skills
Tips for looking after yourself and supporting others
- Be gentle on yourself, and others, if you feel tired, more stressed or are less productive during this time, don’t give yourself a hard time for that and acknowledge emotions and that its okay not to feel okay all the time. It is normal for us to feel increased fatigue at the moment due to the constant uncertainty and stress caused by the pandemic. Using the well-known in flight analogy of applying your own oxygen mark before helping others, the same applies here, focus on yourself and you will be better equipped to help others
- Ensure you keep some routine in the day; research has shown that keeping structure, limiting screen time and news consumption, and getting out into nature can help mitigate stress during this time.
- Scheduling helps reduce the number of decisions and choices you make during each day. Make some time to plan out your week as a whole family – perhaps doing the same things each day. Make time for mini-breaks and mindfulness throughout the day, whether it is pausing with a cup of tea, sitting in the sun or even cleaning. Plan your meals and what times they will be. Put your schedule up somewhere everyone can see and follow.
- Try to make time for exercise even if it is only a 20 minute walk each day, it has been proven, repeatedly, that exercise is beneficial for mental health. Include time for exercise in your household schedule, as well as what you will need to have prepared to start. For example, keeping exercise equipment by the door, putting on exercise clothing early in the day will help you remember to do it and will reduce the resistance to starting.
- Practicing gratitude, such as talking about things you are thankful for, can help us to cope with stress. Journaling is a great way to do this, writing down a simple list of things that you are grateful for or bring you joy. You might also use this as a conversation starter with others – ‘What is something that made you happy today?’
- Acknowledging and sharing your concerns with others is important and beneficial to model for others in your family. ‘What is one thing you are worried about’ could be a good prompt and may give you surprising insight into what others are thinking about – it may be quite different to what you expected.
- Consciously “unplug” at the end of a school or workday. This might mean turning off your computer and putting it away somewhere out of sight or taking a relaxing walk outdoors to signal the end of work/study time and the beginning of leisure time.
If you are looking to make a difference in 2022, apply to become a mentor! Find out more here: https://raise.org.au/mentor/
Looking for more resources?
There is a treasure trove of fantastic information out there, here are some pages that we found helpful: