CODID-19: Youth and mental health
One of the big issues that has started to receive a lot of focus in response to Covid-19 has been the impact on mental health. The isolation of lockdown, the loss of jobs or hours worked, the uncertainty about family budgets, the disruption to schooling, and the loss of so many school and community events of every kind has led to many people who usually cope finding themselves struggling instead.
Recently the Australian Catholic Bishops released their 2020 social justice statement To Live Life to the Full: Mental health in Australia today. The bishops invite us all to reject stigmatisation, to work for the transformation of social determinants of mental ill-health, and to call for policies and service provision that meets the needs of the poorest and most marginalised members of our community.
In the lead up to the 2018 Synod in Rome on young people, the bishops surveyed over 15,000 young people who identified mental health, followed by school or study, drugs and alcohol, and body image as the main issues facing young people today.
Mission Australia’s survey of 15 to 19-year-olds this year found the top three personal concerns were coping with stress, mental health, and body image. Overall, four in 10 said they were stressed all of the time or most of the time.
The Productivity Commission’s November 2020 report finds that the cost of mental illness in Australia is about $220 billion per year – an extraordinary indicator of suffering and loss.
What are the implications for schools? One of the report's priority reforms is to make the social and emotional development of school children of all ages a national priority.
The Commission recommends that the National School Reform Agreement, which sets out governments’ expectations for the education system, funding structures, and reporting requirements, should be updated to include student wellbeing as one of its outcomes.
This would place wellbeing on an even footing with academic progress and student engagement as an important goal that schools across all sectors of the education system must work towards, and report on their progress.
Let’s hope we really do build back better.