Seeking Support in Tough Times
Before 2020, there was plenty of concern about the rates of poor mental health in young people but now, in the wake of COVID, we are seeing a significant increase in the need to support students, especially in regards to anxiety and depression.
If you are concerned about your son’s mental health, I encourage you to start by talking with him. Make sure you choose the right time and place and set aside enough time for a good talk. This is a conversation that should not be rushed, overheard by others or interrupted by siblings.
A good way to start the conversation is to be open and curious about their wellbeing. Perhaps start by saying something to the effect of: “I could be wrong, but I have noticed you have not been yourself lately. You don’t appear to enjoy soccer/footy and seeing your friends as much as you used to. You seem sad a lot of the time. Are things OK for you?” Show interest and understanding in what they have to say and, importantly, ask more questions than give advice. There will be time for that later. Sometimes a young person will initially deny that anything is wrong even though it is obvious that things are not right. It might take a few conversations to get the whole picture, but it is important to be gentle and patient.
If your conversations lead you to being concerned about your son’s mental health, suggest that together you seek help. Your GP is a great place to start. They can do a risk assessment, and if appropriate, provide your son with a Mental Health plan and a referral to a psychologist. Be prepared for significant wait times at the moment and ensure that you attend the appointment even if things appear to have settled. While you wait for the first appointment you might access support for your son by:
- contacting a member of the College’s Wellbeing Team for support and advice
- contacting Headspace for access to information and counselling service
- suggesting your son speaks to Kids HelpLine (1800 55 1800) – great if something happens on the weekend when you cannot get to the GP
- enquiring to see if your employer’s Employee Assistance Program extends to family members
- asking your GP to make a referral to your local Child & Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS).
Remember to also look after yourself and, if possible, share the load between parents and guardians. If you look after yourself, you will be better able to keep calm during tough conversations, respond to the situation without negative emotion and support your son to seek the help he needs.