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Looking to the Future: Young People and Mental Health

Life as a young person can sometimes feel tough, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, political uncertainty, and concerns about the environment. A recent study conducted by the University of Melbourne across schools in Australia sought to understand the experiences and perspectives of high school students. The findings shed light on the challenges faced by young people today and emphasise the importance of addressing their needs. Let’s explore the key takeaways from this research.

Pessimism and mental health

The main thing the study revealed was that many young people experience feelings of pessimism and uncertainty about the future. The pandemic intensified these emotions, affecting personal and social relationships and altering how young people perceive what lies ahead. Mental health struggles were also evident, with a significant percentage reporting feeling mentally unhealthy. It’s also worth noting that students living in cities were more likely to experience mental unhealthiness compared to their rural counterparts.

Mental health and life satisfaction

The research highlighted the close connection between mental health and overall life satisfaction. They found that those who reported feeling mentally healthy were more likely to be satisfied with their lives. On the other hand, those who felt mentally unhealthy were less satisfied. This underscores the crucial role mental health plays in our overall wellbeing.

The impact of the pandemic

The ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly impacted young people’s mental health. The disruptions it caused, such as changes in social dynamics and personal losses, have taken a toll on overall wellbeing. Many students expressed their struggles with motivation and studying, highlighting the challenges they face even as we reach the other side of the pandemic.

Hope for the future

While the study revealed concerns and uncertainties, it’s not all doom and gloom; it also highlighted that a majority of young people feel optimistic about their personal future. However, fewer than half expressed optimism about Australia’s future, and an even smaller fraction were optimistic about the future of the world. This widespread sense of hopelessness reflects the need for addressing global challenges and creating positive change.

Youth empowerment and mental health support

One common theme that emerged from the students’ comments was the desire for young people to be heard and included in important discussions. They also emphasised the urgency of addressing climate change and the environment. Furthermore, the study underscored the need for improved mental health services, with students expressing concerns about the limited support available.

Taking action and building positive futures

This study adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the severity of mental health issues among young people. It is essential to revamp the ways we engage with young people, both within formal institutions and through public conversations. By listening to their needs and desires, we can better support them in navigating these challenging times and building positive futures for themselves, Australia, and the world.

You can find more wellbeing resources on our website here.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, remember you can always contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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