HEADSPACE Coffs Harbour is offering tips to support young people and families for the return to school.
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New research released this week by headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation has found young people in critical age groups (12 to 14 and 18 to 21) are reporting significant increases in feelings of isolation.
The findings, revealing a substantial uplift since the data was last recorded in 2018, come as young people in these age groups enter into major transition periods in their lives from next week with return to school, study and work.
Many young people ages 12 to 14 will be starting secondary school for the first time, while those ages 18 to 21 may be starting the shift into further study or work.
Vikki Ryall, Executive Director, Clinical Practice at headspace said young people in these age groups may need additional support from parents and carers, as the impacts of COVID-19 are still keenly felt.
“We know transition periods can be a time of high risk for young people.
“The move to secondary school from primary or from school into further study or the workforce can feel quite daunting for young people in any instance and COVID has now added extra complexity.
“It’s worrying to see young people in these age groups recording increased feelings of isolation.
“It’s likely that 2020 caused major disruptions to their year with these young people feeling disconnected from newly formed friendships or new ways of life.
“In addition, the usual support structures that schools, workplaces, and further education have in place were compromised during 2020 due to COVID, leaving young people with fewer opportunities to access support when they might’ve needed it.
“We can’t underestimate how the pandemic has and continues to impact all young people, but particularly those experiencing major shifts to their usual routine and moving to a new phase of life.
“We’re encouraging families to tune into how their young person might be coping during this time.
“Families play such an important role in preparing and supporting young people to make positive transitions and they can really equip their young person through this time.
“Things such as planning and helping your young person get organised can be helpful. It also might be helpful to run through some ‘what ifs’ and work through different scenarios together.
“If families are noticing changes with their young person, it’s important to check in and let them know that you’re available if they want to talk to you.
“You can also let them know that this is a significant change that may take some time to adjust to.
“Young people are resilient and with the right support can get through challenging periods in their lives,” Ms Ryall said.
Gary Maher, Community Engagement and Development Officer from headspace Coffs Harbour said, “It’s important to check in with our young people regularly, particularly those young people going through one of life’s big transitions, such as moving from primary school to high school or from high school to the workforce or further study and maybe moving away from home.
“The impacts of the changes to our lives, due to the pandemic, cannot be underestimated and will certainly continue to have an impact in the foreseeable future. Feeling isolated or lonely can cause anxiety, stress, depression and cognitive decline.
“The longer someone feels socially isolated, the greater the risk of mental health concerns associated with social isolation.
“With a little extra support and conversation young people can successfully make the next big steps in their lives.”
If you or your young person are in need of further support, you can visit eheadspace (online and phone support), contact your nearest headspace centre or talk to your GP about options for family counselling.
headspace has also designed a series of online Interactive Activities that young people can check out to source practical tips for connecting with others, goal setting and problem solving.