Dr Natalie Gray | headspace chief medical officer
When I think back to the start of a new school year, I can still remember the buzzing feelings of excitement, anticipation and nerves. Am I going to have classes with all my friends? Will I get better results than last year? Which teachers will I have?
Millions of young people across the country heading into primary and secondary school over the coming weeks may be facing similar feelings — whether they are starting another school year or commencing a new school for the first time.
Some students can adjust to the changes and settle into things quickly. However, some young people may find this a daunting and challenging time.
There can be a number of reasons why it might be hard to go school: trying to make new friends, pressure to get the best marks, dealing with bullying, or perhaps going through a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression.
These worries can make the next few weeks an uncertain time.
Whether you are a young person struggling, or a parent with concerns about your child, headspace is here to help. As the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, headspace provides support for young people aged 12-25 years old who are struggling with their mental health and well-being.
No matter where you are, you can access help at headspace — either through one of our 95 centres in metro, rural and regional areas of Australia, or via headspace.org.au where you can receive online and telephone support between 6am-10am (WST), seven days-a-week. There are also general mental health and well-being resources available on our website.
We wish you and your families a safe and healthy school year ahead.
Advice for parents
Most parents can tell when something is out of the ordinary, but there are also signs that suggest a young person might be experiencing a mental health problem. These are new and noticeable changes in the young person, lasting at least a few weeks, including:
- Not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that they would normally enjoy
- Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
- Being easily irritated or angry for no reason
- Involving themselves in risky behaviour that they would usually avoid, like taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol
- Seeming unusually stressed, worried, down or crying for no reason
- Expressing negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts
Tips for parents
- Talk openly and honestly with them, and let them know that you are concerned
- Reassure them that you will be there for them, and ask what they need from you
- Let them know that there is lots of help available
- Help find an appropriate service, such as a headspace centre and support them in attending
- Help them build a support network
- Look after yourself as well. Get some support by talking to someone you trust, and seek professional help for yourself if you need it.
For more tips and information visit the parents section at headspace.org.au/friends-and-family/information-for-parents-and-carers/
Mental health and mental health issues in young people
- Good mental health is about being able to work and study to your full potential, cope with day-to-day life stresses, be involved in your community and live life in a free and satisfying way.
- A young person who has good mental health has good emotional and social well-being and the capacity to cope with change and challenges.
- Feeling down, tense, angry, anxious or moody are all normal emotions for young people, but when these feelings persist for long periods of time, or if they begin to interfere with their daily life, they may be part of a mental health problem.
- Mental health issues can also influence how young people think and their ability to function in their everyday activities, whether at school, at work or in relationships.
- If you think you know a young person whose mental health is getting in the way of their daily life, it is important to let them know you are there to support them.
For more information about mental health visit headspace.org.au/young-people/what-is-mental-health/.