While the community COVID infection rate may be under control, the pandemic is creating concerning longer term impacts on young people's mental health.
According to data released by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation in October 2020, rates of psychological distress among young people remain "high or very high", something that is reflected in the Griffith region.
"Young people are telling us COVID-19 has impacted their lives significantly. They've missed out on many of the usual social connections and school milestones this year," Jason Trethowan, CEO of headspace said.
In the MIA, young people felt the pressure and disruption to school was "significantly challenging", according to centre manager of headspace Griffith Sharron Dean.
headspace in Griffith also services Leeton shire residents.
"Young people completing their more senior years at school were significantly challenged throughout 2020 with online learning being the only option for a period throughout the year, as was the educational experience for all of our school students," she explained.
"The inability to connect in person with teachers and a completely new approach to learning had its impacts, particularly increased stress levels.
"Add to this the loss of social support through time with friends and fear of the future, we witnessed increases in anxiety presentations."
University students in the region were also impacted explained Ms Dean, saying that the upheaval of living on campus and in cities caused increased stress as well as general disappointment and 'low mood' due to cancelled graduations, a key milestone and right of passage for young people.
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"Headspace Griffith also noted an increase in anxiety for younger students in the period returning to school after having adapted to learning within the home school setting. It was noted that many young people, whilst educating at home experienced a decrease in social anxiety," Ms Dean said.
In a response to a national survey of 2,208 young people and 2,164 parents of young people conducted at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia, Mr Trethowan said "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.
Tips for assisting with anxiety
- Take a time-out.
- Eat well-balanced meals.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
- Take deep breaths.
- Count to 10 slowly.
- Do your best.
- Accept that you cannot control everything.
- Welcome humour.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety.
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling.
If you or a young person you know is in need of emotional support you can contact headspace Griffith at 6962 3277 or drop into their office at 1/26 Ulong St, Griffith.