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If you know kids this age, you need to check if they're OK

By Melody Tan 2 min read
Thursday, September 10, 2020

Studies reveal age group suffering the biggest mental health hit during lockdown.

When the first wave of COVID-19-associated lockdown happened across Australia, communities banded together (while social distancing) by delivering food, helping with chores or shopping for others.

However, Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) research has revealed that Australians were not as good at looking after themselves—or able to access mental health support services during lockdown.

It also found that young people aged under 29 were more likely than any other age group to need mental health support and counselling, but they were also the most unable to access these services. One in five AIFS survey respondents said they needed to access mental health services, but more than half of those who needed them had not accessed them.

According to AIFS deputy director and research expert Kelly Hand, living in a regional or remote area could be one of the reasons, but the other reason is because younger people are more likely to rely on those outside their household.

“Our friends are our most important people in our teens and as we grow older . . . our gaze tends to shift to looking after our family."

Despite that, Kelly emphasises that "families have an important role to play, even if it’s just being there and making sure we’re available to support our young people whenever they need us.” This is because the research also revealed that during lockdown, "relatives were the most common source of help, with more than one in four people saying their household got help from a relative living elsewhere.

“Families are the backbone of communities, and at times of crisis families are doing the heavy lifting. The work they do to support each might be invisible, but it is pivotal in keeping communities functioning.”

R U OK? Checking in with your friends

Many have suffered—and are still suffering—from the mental toll of COVID-19 and its associated restrictions and lockdowns. Even as restrictions ease in some states and countries, other cities are still facing tough lockdowns.

Besides young people, mothers are feeling more isolated than they used to and children are having to deal with completely different routines. And as the AIFS research shows, not everybody has the opportunity to access mental health support services.

The premise of the annual R U OK Day as well as events such as the Mental Health Week is something we can adopt for every day of the year and it's a simple one: To inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. Suicide prevention is an enormously complex and sensitive challenge, but sometimes all it takes is to ask someone "Are you OK?" and listen, helping people struggling with life feel connected long before they even think about suicide. 

Is someone you know behaving out of the ordinary? Or are you feeling tired, overwhelmed or unmotivated? It’s important to know the signs—not only for yourself but also for those around you.

So check in with someone today. It could be a young person, a family member or a friend you haven't spoken to in a while. Take the time to ask if they're OK and help build the connection.

And if you're not feeling OK, make sure you seek help. You can also join our Facebook community of 8000+ mums. We're here to listen and to support you on your motherhood journey.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact:

Lifeline:  13 11 14 Australia | 0800 54 33 54 New Zealand

Melody Tan is project manager of the Mums At The Table multimedia initiative. She lives in Sydney with her husband and their preschooler son.