Australia may be on path to opening up but as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, the mental health impact on young Australians, in particular, is worsening.
Lockdowns, school closures, other social distancing restrictions and uncertainty about the future have challenged the mental health of many.
Already-stretched mental health services are struggling to cope with increasing demand and support organisations such as Kids Helpline have reported a spike in calls for help.
Although now over, long lockdowns and school closures interstate have taken a toll. In NSW and Victoria, government figures show an increase in 12 to 17-years presenting to hospital emergency departments for mental health issues during lockdowns.
Despite a number of short lockdowns, West Australians have been fortunate to live essentially normal lives within closed borders; however, that hasn’t prevented a deterioration in the mental health of WA children.
A 2020 study investigating levels of Covid-19 in WA public schools detected no signs of the virus but high levels of emotional distress. Around 40% of secondary students were experiencing moderate to high levels, with a much higher proportion found in female students than males.
The study’s authors suspect the pandemic exacerbated a trend that has been on the rise for many years. Like other states, hospital admissions for mental health issues are increasing.
The number of children aged 0 – 17 referred to the WA Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services jumped 50% from 2015 to 2019.
Signs and symptoms of mental health issues may start to emerge in adolescence. While it’s normal to feel sad, stressed, angry or anxious at times, if it is ongoing or impacting daily life additional help may be needed.
Constable Care Foundation’s youth arm, Youth Choices, works regularly with WA secondary students to address challenging issues such as mental health. Through the safe medium of theatre, students learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills and gain help-seeking strategies.
The Western Australian Government recently awarded Youth Choices with a Covid-19 Youth Recovery Grant to address mental health issues in vulnerable students. A program to empower and promote resilience amongst at-risk students at Derby District High School is helping drive positive change.
To learn more about Youth Choices or to book a workshop click here.
If you or your child needs help:
In a life-threatening emergency, call 000 or get to your nearest Emergency Department
Lifeline - 113 11 14
Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
Headspace - 1800 650 890
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
ReachOut - au.reachout.com
References:Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.DETECT Schools Study, Understanding the impact of COVID-19 in Western Australia Schools, 2020, Department of Education, Department of Health and Telethon Kids Institute.Mental Health Commission WA