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Mental health: Teachers say poor mental health is the biggest issue for young people

The mental health of our Australian school kids is at an all-time low, teachers say. In fact, poor mental wellbeing is the biggest issue students are facing today. 

Half of all the mental health conditions we experience at some point in our lives will have started by age 14. 

What’s more alarming is that one in 10 people between the ages of 12 and 17 will self-harm, while one in 13 will seriously consider suicide. One in 40 will follow through with a suicide attempt. It’s no wonder our country’s teachers fear for the mental health of their students.

A 2023 Beyond Blue survey found that Australian teachers believe poor mental health is the biggest issue amongst our youth, followed by excessive screen-time, and then bullying, according to the ABC.

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Of the 2,369 teachers surveyed by the mental health support organisation, only one in three believed their students were mentally healthy.

„[There have been] more noticeable moments where people are upset at school,“ Alanah, a year 11 student at Braemar College in Victoria, told The ABC. „People kind of go on nervous rants. I’ve seen some people cry in really bad circumstances.“

For Alanah, social media has played a big part in the mental health of her and her classmates. „There’s this need to kind of show off, and show that you have friends and that you’re doing all these things — and if you don’t you kind of get outcast,“ she said.

„I think it’s definitely hard to switch off, especially at lunchtime you walk around, everyone’s just scrolling.“

Emma Grant, Braemar College’s wellbeing specialist, said the enforcement of lockdown in 2020 through to 2022 had a huge impact. From her own experience with students, she’s noticed some are lacking a sense of purpose and social skills because of the extended periods of isolation.

„They’re not learning social awareness. They’re not learning how to read emotions. They’re not learning body language,“ Grant said. „A 16-year-old is not where you would typically see a 16-year-old, for example. Same with a 14-year-old. They’re missing some of those socio-emotional key skills.“

Yes, during the pandemic it was mobile phones and devices that kept young people connected, but it also resulted in excessive screen time, something they can’t kick.

Beyond Blue’s findings have led to new mental health resources which will become part of the classroom curriculum, created by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) in consultation with Beyond Blue, Headspace, the National Mental Health Commission, and of course, our teachers nationwide.

And they won’t just be exclusive to PDHPE classes, they’ll be included in lessons under the English and humanities departments. 

„We don’t want students to think the only time we’re talking about the importance of mental health and wellbeing is when they walk into a class and timetable that has health and physical education on it,“ said Sharon Foster, ACARA’s curriculum director. It’s an ongoing discussion, and one of the upmost importance.

If you or someone you know is suffering from poor mental health, visit, or call 1300 22 4636.

Read related topics:Mental Health

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