Anxiety and mental health issues rife among young people

School leaders are reporting anxiety is the single biggest issue effecting children today. Exposure to emotional stress and the uncertainties of COVID-19 have added to the strain on mental health for many young people and families.

Life Education Trust NZ Chief Executive John O’Connell says, “Life Education started in New Zealand over 30 years ago and in recent years we’ve seen a significant shift in how young people are coping with growing up today. We are seeing more and more schools ask for teaching support of resilience, stress, anxiety, relationships and identity - to the point that this is now the majority of our teaching in schools.”

“As part of our outcomes tracking each month we capture school leader’s views on the issues in their school and anxiety was identified as the leading challenge facing children, with 85% responding it was an issue. This compares with the next most significant issues, online bullying at 58% and vaping at 15%.”

Increased concerns of the mental health of young people are also reflected in the recent Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey Initial Findings, where alongside other saddening statistics it was found that emotional and mental health has worsened, with 23 percent of young people reporting symptoms of depression - an increase of 10% since 2012.

“In 2018 we surveyed 2,350 children aged 9-12 years to gain further insight into the issues they face, finding that one in five felt really sad or stressed about things most of the time, consistent with the findings of the Youth19 Survey. With the additional impact of COVID-19 in recent months it’s now more important than ever to strengthen students’ resilience, their self-esteem and their understanding of ways to achieve good mental health”, John O’Connell says.

Life Education Trust NZ supports schools, providing trained health teachers who offer a tailored programme to support the specific needs of children in each school.

The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement published in 2018 by the Ministry of Education identified 86% of primary and intermediate schools use Life Education to support their health teaching.

Mental Health Awareness Week will be held in September, which provides an opportunity to increase the awareness of the emotional wellbeing of our tamariki.