A new report released by Mission Australia and Orygen has drawn attention to the impact of COVID-19 on young Australians in 2021.
In a survey of more than 20,200 young Australians aged 15-19, 51% of respondents said COVID-19 had a negative impact on their mental health.
The survey indicated that Victoria was the state where COVID-19 had the greatest impact on young people’s mental health, with 69% of young Victorians saying their mental health had been negatively affected. Around 4,600 young Victorians were interviewed for the study.
Victoria also stood out compared to other states in terms of the percentage of young people who indicated that their participation in activities (78%), education (78%), physical health (63%) and friendships (48%) had been negatively impacted.
Across Australia, the negative impact on mental health was more widely reported among women (62%) and young people of diverse gender identities (70%) than among men (34%).
The report drew attention to the continued impact of pandemic restrictions on young members of the community.
“Over the past two years, young people have borne the brunt of the effects of COVID-19 and faced a host of unique challenges,” said Dr Kate Filia, Principal Investigator at Orygen.
“For those who reported more areas of their lives impacted by COVID-19, greater severity of psychological distress was experienced.
“We also found that it led to increased rates of stress, loneliness and a perceived loss of control over their lives for these groups of young people.”
Mission Australia’s lead for practice, evidence and impact, Marion Bennett, called for additional help for “young people whose mental health and wellbeing have been affected by the pandemic”.
“We need to increase access to mental health services, improve mental health screening and supports in schools and workplaces,” she said.
“It is also essential that we ensure that young people at risk of homelessness are identified early and have access to evidence-based housing and support models, such as youth homes, when they need them. need. »
In the report, the Victorian government was praised for achieving its goal of having publicly funded mental health practitioners in all public and specialist secondary schools. The report called on all states and territories to follow this model.
Despite the report’s endorsement for the state government’s scheme, opposition mental health spokeswoman Emma Kealy focused on what she identified as $60 million worth of reductions, following the shutdown of the coronavirus response package for mental health and wellbeing.
“There is growing evidence that the impact of six work lockdowns is still being felt, by all Victorians,” Ms Kealy said.
“Remote learning has been devastating to the education and emotional well-being of our children. Today’s report reaffirms what we already know – that our children are hurting and still need support. dedicated now, more than ever.
“It’s exactly the wrong time for the (state) government to take $60 million from programs that have been beefed up to deal with the devastating mental toll of the lockdown.”
An analysis of the most recent budget indicates that Department of Health funding for clinical mental health will increase by more than $400 million. However, funding for community support services appears to have decreased by $18 million.
The Government of Victoria has been contacted for comment.
If this article has raised concerns for you or someone you know, the following services are available: Lifeline 13 11 14 and Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.