09 September 2021

Teen Mental Health

Article by Student Wellbeing Team

Teen Mental Health

Given the remote learning challenges and social disruption currently being experienced across the state, we as a school community are extremely mindful of monitoring and supporting our students’ mental health. In recognition of RUOK? Day taking place on Thursday 9th September, we thought it timely to highlight a few aspects of teen mental health.

What’s going on out there?

Headspace reports that approximately 1 in 4 young people experience mental health difficulties in any given year, while Beyond Blue reports that over 75% of mental health issues occur before the age of 25. On top of those statistics however, research recently released by the Monash COVID-19 mental health research group has demonstrated that lockdown restrictions have been associated with near double the population prevalence of moderate to severe depressive and generalised anxiety symptoms (across all ages).

This issue is therefore of great relevance to our secondary student population. The current COVID-19 impacted climate, when added to the (already significant) developmental changes and associated social challenges and emotional extremes, can make for a very difficult time for our young people and their families.

When should you be concerned?

A question frequently asked by many parents is: “how can I tell if my child is having a normal reaction to difficult experiences?”.

A ‘normal’ range of feelings and responses to stressors can last for days or even a couple of weeks for young people, during which time they will benefit from support and perhaps guidance. Young people may experience a range of emotions, and all emotions (although they may not be pleasant) are okay. Experiencing even difficult emotions just makes us human. Rather, parents should be on the alert for more significant mental health concerns, as indicated by Beyond Blue below.

The main thing to look for in your young person is a sudden and ongoing change from the way they usually behave and feel. Depression doesn’t just cause young people to feel sad or down, and anxiety doesn’t just make people worry. Young people can express feelings of anxiousness and depression in many different ways.

They may:

  • have trouble falling or staying asleep, or complain of restless/unsatisfying sleep
  • be tired, grumpy, irritable, tearful or upset most of the time
  • feel restless or on edge
  • lose interest in things they used to enjoy
  • have trouble starting and completing assignments or work
  • be forgetful, lose concentration and be easily distracted
  • become withdrawn and lose friends
  • either refuse to eat or eat a lot, and either lose or gain weight quickly
  • have tense or sore muscles
  • complain of feeling physically awful, with unexplained aches and pains

Questions to ask yourself

  • Have you noticed a change in their behaviour?
  • Is this behaviour occurring frequently?
  • Has this been going on for more than two weeks?
  • Are these changes affecting their day-to-day life (e.g. school, work, relationships)?

These quick questions can give you an indication of how worried we should be. The more you answer ‘yes’, the more you need to consider discussing these changes with your young person and/or a health professional.

Where to go if your teen needs help

Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s homeroom teacher, year level coordinator or the wellbeing team (wellbeing@ignatius.vic.edu.au) if they wish to discuss any mental health concerns. Alternatively, or in addition, a conversation with a trusted GP can be a good place to start. You can access a ‘mental health care plan’ through your GP which allows for access to subsidised medicare sessions to support mental health. The Bellarine Community Health Youth site in Drysdale (1800 007 224) or Headspace in Ocean Grove (5253 0400) are also very helpful supports. There are of course also a large number of private psychologists across Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, although some currently have lengthy waiting lists.

More information and practical tips

Here are two great, short videos released by Headspace and Drummond Street Services to assist parents with the important job of monitoring and supporting their teenagers’ mental health:


Other useful information for parents can be found on the Wellbeing Canvas page, or by accessing the following links:

Raising Children: https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/mental-health-physical-health

Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/young-people

Headspace: https://headspace.org.au/parents/

This Way Up: https://thiswayup.org.au/coping-with-covid-19-stress-and-fatigue/

Reachout: https://parents.au.reachout.com/one-on-one-support 

Student Wellbeing Team