New research: Young Australians fearful and uncertain for their future

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June 18, 2020

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New research released today from headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation shows young Australians are fearful and uncertain for their future as a result of COVID-19.

A national survey of 2,208 young people aged 15-25 and 2,164 parents of young people aged 12-25 conducted at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia showed 40% of young respondents felt that the pandemic had impacted their confidence to achieve future goals - young women were more likely to feel this way (43%) than young men (38%). 

Alarmingly, research also found that half of all respondents felt their mental health had got worse during this period (51%). According to headspace CEO Jason Trethowan, these results not only reflect the current mental health status of young Australians, but raised serious concerns for future wellbeing.  

“We know young people are concerned about what their future looks like and how the current climate is impacting their ability to achieve their goals. This sense of fear and uncertainty has the potential to be quite significant and it’s critically important that any young person going through a tough time can and does access support,” said Mr Trethowan. 

The survey results reveal significant discrepancies between how much parents believe their young peoples’ lives are impacted as a result of COVID-19 and what young people are actually saying themselves. This disconnect reminds us that it is important for parents to check in with their young person to understand what’s affecting them in this current environment. 

When asked about the negative impacts of COVID-19, the parents emphasised negatives that were not as keenly felt by the young people. Parents felt that their young person’s participation in sport (62% vs. 46%), exercise and physical activity (49% vs. 38%) and their general routine (58% vs. 48%) were all negatively impacted. Conversely, half of all young people felt the pandemic had negatively impacted their interactions with friends (56%), their study situation (53%), their routine (48%) and their mood (47%). 

“We can see from the research that COVID-19 has had significant negative short term impacts for young people when it comes to things like study, interactions with friends, work situation and mood, but the long term impacts have the potential to be much greater,” says Mr Trethowan. 

Despite the big changes young people are facing, they’re not seeking help, with one in five young people saying they need support for their mental health but are not following through to access it. 

Jenny Valdivia, Manager of Youth Mental Health Services for Grand Pacific Health (lead agency for headspace centres in Wollongong, Nowra, Bega & Goulburn), says seeking support when needed is critical: 

“Now more than ever, young people and their families need to know that there is a safe space where they can seek support.” 

“We know young people are resilient and with the right tools and support can get through challenging times. headspace centres are well equipped provide this support to both young people and their families with a dedicated team of mental health workers and family clinicians,” added Ms Valdivia. 

This week headspace is launching a new digital awareness campaign “together we’ve got this”, which aims to support the mental health of young people and their parents as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information visit headspace.org.au/tips.

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