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Young Aussies struggling with the impacts of COVID

1 December 2021 at 8:00 am
Luke Michael
Mission Australia has released its Youth Survey Report 2021

Luke Michael | 1 December 2021 at 8:00 am


Young Aussies struggling with the impacts of COVID
1 December 2021 at 8:00 am

Mission Australia has released its Youth Survey Report 2021

COVID-19 has emerged as the number one issue facing young Australians today, with new research showing the pandemic has had a major impact on youth mental health.

More than 20,000 young people in Australia aged 15 to 19 years identified their values, aspirations and issues of concern for Mission Australia’s Youth Survey Report 2021.

Coronavirus was identified by 45.7 per cent of survey respondents as one of the most important issues in Australia today, while the environment (38 per cent) and equity and discrimination (35.4 per cent) rounded out the top three key concerns for young people. 

In last year’s report, equity and discrimination (40.2 per cent) was the top issue identified, with COVID-19 (38.8 per cent) coming in second.

Mission Australia executive Marion Bennett told Pro Bono News she believed the cumulative effect of lockdowns in 2021 has worn down young people this year, leading to the rise in concern.  

When asked about the ways COVID-19 has affected them, 68.3 per cent of respondents said the pandemic limited their participation in activities, while education (62.3 per cent) and mental health (50.3 per cent) were also negatively impacted.  

“I think the second round of restrictions really exacerbated some of the negative effects that we saw last year,” Bennett said.

“Young people said that lockdowns and COVID-19 really affected their ability to participate in activities, but also their education and their mental health. 

“So it’s really the impact on those three areas that I think drove [concern] to rise so much.”

Several survey respondents discussed the personal impact the pandemic was having on their wellbeing.

One said COVID has isolated them from their peers during “the most important parts of my teen years”.

“I feel as if it has weakened my friendships and ability to socialise because we have to constantly isolate from each other,” a respondent said.

Another outlined the mental health ramifications of the pandemic.

“My anxiety has been heightened by a constant state of the unknown and that everything can change so quickly,” they said.

“Not knowing when I will see family and friends next, being isolated, feeling insecure in my job.”

Mission Australia is worried about the long-term mental health effects of COVID-19. 

Bennett said this year’s survey revealed coping with stress and mental health were the top issues of personal concern for young people. 

“Four in 10 young people said that they felt stressed either all of the time or most of the time – that’s a really high proportion,” she said.    

“And then with COVID exacerbating mental health concerns, it is [even more] worrying. 

Strong policy action needed       

In wake of the report, Mission Australia warned that the future wellbeing and employment prospects for young people were in danger without the right supports and policy changes in place.

Bennett said the report was an important tool for policymakers to help them integrate the voices and concerns of young people into policy development work.   

She noted it was not one size fits all – with services for an adult population and a youth population needing to look really different.  

“And then even within that, there’s quite marked differences between, for example, the [needs of] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and for gender diverse young people,” she said.  

“And so policy makers and program designers really need to listen to [young people’s] voices to make sure that the programs and policies are meeting their needs.” 

Mission Australia is calling for a national youth policy framework to be created to demonstrate a national commitment to integrating young people’s voices in policy development and program design. 

And while the report serves as an important tool for policymakers and government departments, it also aids the work of Mission Australia itself. 

Bennett said when the charity is designing new programs for young people, it refers back to the report to ensure it is reflecting the needs of those it’s serving.

She added that the findings also feed into Mission Australia’s advocacy work.

“It’s really important for that because this is a direct way of hearing from young people about what they want,” she said.  

“And so we can channel those voices when we give evidence to parliamentary inquiries, when we write submissions, when we do our policy reports, or when we talk to the media – ensuring we integrate the voices of young people in what we say.”

You can see the full report here.   

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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