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A new survey from national youth mental health organisation headspace has laid bare some of the psychological impacts 2020 and the global COVID-19 pandemic have had on Australia’s 12 to 25 year olds, finding young people are dealing with “an overall decline in wellbeing”.

The headspace National Youth Mental Health Survey, released as part of today’s headspace Day (21 October), a national even held during Mental Health Month that aims to support the mental health and wellbeing of all young Australians, also revealed about one third of respondents are experiencing “high or very high levels of psychological distress.”

This finding was more common among 12 to 25 year old women (40%) than the equivalent group of men (26%), while a little over half of respondents said they were unable to complete their regular tasks on one or more days during the two weeks prior to the survey, up 10% from results recorded in 2018.

According to headspace, the findings and other results from the report are clearly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Young people are telling us COVID-19 has impacted their lives significantly,” said Jason Trethowan, CEO of headspace.

“They’ve missed out on many of the usual social connections and school milestones this year– and this comes on top of some of the worst natural disasters our country has faced including drought, floods and the bushfire crisis.

“We’ve seen a drop in their ability to manage their daily activities at school, home and work and that’s affecting their sense of wellbeing, their relationships and how they cope.”

As a result of the survey, headspace has used their annual headspace day event to draw attention to the “small steps” young people can take to ensure they look after themselves, Mr Trethowan said.

“We know there’s a direct correlation between decline in functioning over a sustained period and bigger mental health challenges, so it’s crucial we help them get on top of things now,” Mr Trethowan said.

“It’s a crucial part of managing mental health – whether its 15 seconds or five minutes, make it a habit and create some time and space to focus on the everyday things that make you smile or simply slow down and breathe a little easier.”

More information on the survey, or the “Small Steps” advice, can be found at the Headspace website.

If this story left you wanting to discuss your mental health, Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636) and Lifeline (13 11 14) are both available on a 24/7 basis.