Concerns for mental health rise as thousands of young people seek help amidst COVID-19
22.05.2020

Concerns for mental health rise as thousands of young people seek help amidst COVID-19

Words by Talia Rinaldo via Forte

A new survey found that around one in five young people feel lonely most or all of the time.

This year we were told we had to change the way we interact as human beings in our society.

This was part of Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy’s advice on strict Government social-distancing requirements to help flatten the coronavirus curve, and while social distancing and isolation are key in helping to reduce further spread of the virus, these measures can also have an adverse impact on mental health… and that’s exactly what’s happened.

New data shows a 50 per cent spike in the number of people seeking help from ReachOut’s digital youth mental health service to deal with loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the same time last year.

From 16 March – 17 May 2020, ReachOut’s online information and support for isolation and loneliness was accessed more than 17,000 times – that’s one person every five minutes. To properly respond to young people’s changing mental health needs during COVID-19, ReachOut launched new digital resources for young people when it comes to dealing with isolation and loneliness to address potential mental health and suicide risks.

A ReachOut survey of more than 1400 young people aged 14–25 years conducted in January 2020, before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, found that around one in five reported feeling lonely most of the time or always. Almost half of those who were experiencing loneliness reported that it had a moderate to major impact on their wellbeing. The survey also found that the most common place young people felt lonely was at home.

The recent COVID-19 restrictions only exacerbated feelings of loneliness for young Australians, causing a high level of distress for some people prompting the digital mental health support service to provide more resources.

“Loneliness was a significant issue for young people before COVID-19 and the new service data shows the problem has grown since distancing restrictions were put in place to manage the Coronavirus. The issue of loneliness is also a key theme being discussed by young people in our peer support forums,” explains CEO of ReachOut, Ashley de Silva.

“The data is concerning because research shows that loneliness can be both a precursor to mental health difficulties and can exacerbate existing mental health difficulties.”

It’s services like ReachOut, which are designed for and with young people to reflect their lives and lived experiences, that are proving to be an essential part of the early intervention and prevention response.

“More than 800,000 people have accessed ReachOut’s services since restriction measures were put in place – that’s 10 people every minute,” she continues. “It’s encouraging to see so many young people and parents engaging with support right now – we’ll continue to use our service data, forum themes and focus group research to respond to their changing mental health needs.

“We want young people to know that it’s important to continue to seek out connection. You can come to ReachOut.com any time of the day or night, to find help right now and to connect to an online support crew on our peer-support forums. This is a supportive and anonymous space where you can hear from young people who care about what’s happening for you because they’ve been there too.”

If you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness or depression, talk to your doctor, a counsellor, good friends and family, or read online to ReachOut.com. For more information visit ReachOut.com and ReachOut.com/COVID-19.

This article originally appeared on Forte