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Today’s students more aware of mental health than those before them

tennager laughing in a group

Concern over mental health disorders among young people have been on the rise this year. New data shows that 40% of 16 to 24 year old Australians experienced a mental health disorder between 2020 and 2022 - a significant rise from just 26% in 2007.

While these are very real concerns that deserve serious attention and care, there is one positive aspect of the situation that may not be getting the attention it deserves. Young people are more aware of and talking more about mental health than any generation that came before them.

While assessing nominations for this year’s Edstart Achievement Awards, a recurring theme across all award categories was student-led initiatives aiming to improve or raise awareness of the mental health of communities around them, often targeted towards other young people. With this October being Mental Health Month we thought that it was a good idea to shine a light on some of these bright ideas.

Students want to talk to their parents about mental health

Some parents can at times find talking to their children about mental health to be a difficult conversation. A lot of students however want to have more conversations with their parents about the pressures facing them and their mental health concerns.

To help improve communications, one nomination into our Visual and Performing Arts category is aiming to create a film to tell stories about their generation's mental health from the perspective of a young person. The student wants to use the film as a way to educate adults on teen mental health and the challenges they face in today’s society.

How environment affects wellbeing

The physical environment around us has a big impact on our mental health. We respond to all sorts of external stimuli, and it influences how we feel - factors such as cleanliness, lighting and aesthetics can all have an effect.

Spending time in nature has been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol, and studies have suggested a link between plants in schools and positive learning behaviours. With this in mind one student is trying to introduce plants into the classroom to make a greener, calmer space and improve the learning environment and mental health of students. They want to see if the plants would help boost learning and mental health of other students.

The link between physical and mental health

Staying active and physical activity are widely acknowledged methods to help alleviate stress and mental health issues. Living in a town with a tragically high suicide rate, one student is working to encourage young people in their community to join sports teams so they can gain mental resilience and teamwork skills and improve overall mental health.

Understanding when young people are facing challenges with either their mental health or wellbeing they are more likely to reach out to other young people, one nomination was focused on creating a gym buddy program for other Gymnasts. The program pairs young gymnasts with a slightly older mentor to provide them with support, and the opportunity and space to open up to another young person about their health and wellbeing.

Entering the Sport and Physical Wellbeing category to further their soccer career, one student displayed awareness of their own battles with mental health and how being part of a supportive team had helped them through hard times. They wrote of how having a passion, being part of a team and moving your body can make a huge difference in the face of serious issues.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is ‘We all have a role to play”. We can all promote activities and ideas that can have a positive impact on our daily lives and the lives of others. It’s encouraging to see through the wide range of nominations from our Edstart Achievement Awards the awareness and understanding that young people have on this very important issue.

For more information about Mental Health Month you can visit their page here, and download their Schools Pack here.

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