18 Jul Coronavirus and Mental Health in Young Adults & Youth
They’re being called ‘Generation Covid’. They’re the young Australians who have seen their plans, hopes and dreams shattered because of the global pandemic.
And, they’re struggling to cope with the rising anxiety.
For the past three months, researchers at Swinburne University have been surveying people across Australia, asking about their mental health. More than 6,000 people responded and the results were alarming.
In general, we might expect to see 20% of the general public having a mental health disorder of one kind or another. But in June, the data showed that number was in fact 50 to 55% of the population. That’s an incredible 35% rise. And depression scores for 18 to 25-year-olds were almost four times higher than usual for the age group. It was nearly as bad for anxiety and stress.
While things here in Queensland are still looking good, the effects of mental health problems are considered ‘long tail’, and we certainly haven’t seen the end of them yet. The impacts that this situation will have on our youths’ lives, on their employment, their careers and their relationships are still unfolding, and will continue to have effects into the future.
Managing Coronavirus and Youth Mental Health
So, what can you do to help the young people in your life manage coronavirus and their mental health? Here are some suggestions.
Help Them to Maintain Perspective
It’s easy for our youths to get bogged down in everything that they’ve lost and the things they’ve missed out on. And it’s easy (and even sometimes reasonable) to find themselves a little bit lost in the negativity that surrounds this pandemic throughout the world. But as much as possible, it’s vital for their mental health that they try to maintain perspective.
As much as you can, help your loved ones to remember that there are medical and public health experts, scientists and researchers around the globe who are dedicating their lives and careers to finding a way to contain the virus and help those who have been affected. They are working hard to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.
Remind them that though things look bad, this isn’t the first time the world has faced a pandemic, and help them focus on the positive things whenever life feels too awful.
Turn Off the Stream of Negative Information
Constantly exposing yourself to negative information takes a huge psychological toll. Research shows that our emotional responses to the stresses of daily life (even seemingly minor stresses) in general have an effect on our long-term mental health – and this is only exacerbated during times of extreme disruption.
To help your youths turn off this negative stream of information, talk to them about avoiding inflammatory and overly-dramatised social media posts or discussions. Show them where they can find data-driven media and scientific sources for their information, and help them to remember to stick to the facts whenever they’re having conversations about the pandemic. This will help them maintain perspective and manage their feelings in a positive way. And understanding the science and the facts will give them a feeling of power and control over the situation.
Take Practical Steps
When things go wrong, or your loved ones miss out on yet another thing that they’d planned for, try to help them remain calm and plan some practical steps they can take. Taking action, even if it’s not the action they planned for, helps give a sense of control in a situation that’s completely uncontrollable.
So, if a job opportunity falls through, perhaps you could sit down and talk through some next steps – such as researching other opportunities, scheduling a time line when they could reassess the opportunity and get back in touch with the company or maybe some further study or training they could undertake that could help them when things start moving back towards normal.
As much as you can, try to help your youth continue on with their usual routine as well as family routines. Keeping to your usual family dinner schedule, or your usual weekend activities are all essential during times of crisis. In fact, adherence to family routines has been identified as important for family resilience during times of crisis.
If your loved one has experienced any mental health issues in the past, or is experiencing any feelings of distress, overwhelm or stress, help them to find some support. Social contact, or visiting and speaking to friends and family, can really help bolster our mental health and wellbeing.
But if those feelings of distress continue, they should definitely seek further additional support. There are online forums for discussing ways to cope during coronavirus. Beyond Blue has short term counselling by phone and webchat. Or you can certainly reach out to our team of dedicated mental health professionals.
These resources and support will help your youths find ways to better manage the stresses and worries that come from being in the midst of this pandemic upheaval. While it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed by news relating to the pandemic outbreak, there’s no reason for you to go through this alone.
Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network and Counselling Psychologist.
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